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Cardiovascular diseases in the UK
Problems with the cardiovascular system have serious consequences. Data from the Office for National
Statistics in England and Wales for 2005 showed that the heart disease were responsible for more
deaths (20.2% of deaths) than any other cause. Many of these cardiovascular diseases are linked to a
condition called atherosclerosis.
How Atherosclerosis forms
Atherosclerosis literally means hardening of the arteries, and is a buildup of yellowish fatty deposits
(plaque) on the outside of the arteries. It can begin in late childhood and continues throughout life. A
plaque can build up until it restricts the flow of blood through the artery or even blocks it completely.
Plaques are particularly more likely to form in the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) and of the
neck (carotid arteries). There is a development of plaque which is shown below:
What happens in Atherosclerosis?
Once the damage has occurred, the body's inflammatory response begins and white blood cells arrive at
the site of the damage. These cells accumulate chemicals from the blood, in particular cholesterol. This
leads to fatty deposits known as an atheroma forming on the endothelial lining of the artery. Fibrous
tissue and calcium salts also build up around the atheroma, turning it into a harden plaque. This hardened
area means part of the artery wall hardens, so it is less elastic than it should be. This is atherosclerosis.
Problems caused by Atherosclerosis and high blood pressure
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If an area of artery is narrowed by plaque, blood tends to build up behind the blockage. The artery
bugles and the wall are under more pressure than usual, which can cause the walls of the artery to
severely weaken. This is known as Aneurysm. The weakened artery my split open, leading to massive
internal bleeding. Aneurysm often happens in the brain or the aorta, especially in the abdomen. The
massive blood loss and drop in pressure are often fatal.…read more