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Arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, a disease fairly common among
older people. The walls of the blood vessels are clogged by depositions of
minerals and fatty material and degenerate, losing their original resilience,
and become thicker, tough, and more rigid. Arteriosclerosis represents
from 25 to almost 50 per cent of all chronic circulatory disease, and is
responsible for many deaths among persons living past middle age.
A healthy blood vessel can be compared to a hose made of elastic material.
When the volume of liquid flowing through the hose is increased, the hose
stretches to accommodate it, and when the volume of liquid decreases the
hose shrinks. This is exactly what a healthy blood vessel does, stretching
and shrinking to accommodate the increasing or decreasing volume of
blood flowing through it. But when the walls of a blood vessel become
rigid and inflexible, as in arteriosclerosis, this accommodation does not
take place and when increased quantities of blood flow through a hardened
or sclerotic artery, the pressure within the blood vessel rises temporarily,
sometimes to the bursting point. Actual1y the symptoms of hardened
arteries develop largely from the effects of this condition on the blood
pressure and the circulation of local areas of the body. Generalized high
blood pressure throughout the body is not caused by hardening of the
arteries, although the two conditions tend to be closely related.
The commonest symptoms of hardened arteries are drowsiness, periods of
giddiness, headaches, and other manifestations of high blood pressure.
Interference with circulation may cause cramps in the legs, which give
them a bluish tinge. The most serious form of arteriosclerosis occurs when
the blood vessels of the brain and heart are involved.
The specific causes of the hardening process within the arteries is not as
yet fully understood and is the subject of much medical research. One
theory, partly borne out by experimental work with animals, places
responsibility on excessive consumption of fats. Another suggests that
overindulgence of tobacco and alcohol somehow stimulate the condition,
although this has never been proved scientifically. Still another attributes
the onset of arteriosclerosis to excessive consumption or refined
carbohydrates and sugars.
Treatment for arteriosclerosis is generally limited to establishing the
patient's comfort and peace of mind as much as possible, and encouraging
him to take good care of himself. The patient is urged to relax and
eliminate as much as possible the stresses and strains of daily living, since
excitement or intense emotion may stimulate a greater flow of blood than
the hardened arteries can accommodate, with the possibility of severe
consequences from rupture and bleeding. A low-fat diet is often
recommended, and heat treatment, either baths or exposure to hot air, has
been found useful. Several new drugs are available which often
prove beneficial when prescribed.

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