Watching this video will change your understanding of atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. It shows how this disease can progress silently until a sudden “attack” happens, often with lethal consequences.
When a Heart Attack Happens
This video highlights the 3 phases of arterial disease:
• Normal Artery
• Stable Plaque
• Vulnerable Plaque
A Normal Artery refers to the arteries of our youth, before atherosclerotic “plaque” forms in the wall of the artery. Arteries are composed of three layers:
• Intima (like a tire inner tube)
• Media (like the tire walls)
• Adventitia (like the tire tread)
Stable Plaque is like a scar that forms after an injury. It won’t disappear, but it won’t cause sudden harm either. Note the location of the yellow oval which is cholesterol material in the wall. The white material is calcified connective tissue walling off the plaque from the inside of the artery where the blood flows. That opening is diminished in size, but the situation is stable. But it tells us you are at increased risk of forming more plaque in the future because you have done so in the past.
Vulnerable Plaque is where the real danger lurks. It is actually the earliest stage of all newly-formed plaque. When plaque forms due to inflammation or injury to the artery wall, there are two potential outcomes. It can heal without causing harm, becoming Stable Plaque. Or it can rupture and trigger formation of a blood clot or blockage inside the artery. That blockage can cause a heart attack or stroke, causing the loss of heart muscle or brain tissue. This is depicted in the third segment of this video.
Now you know how heart attacks happen. Arterial disease is silent, but progressive. Our goal at The Center for Prevention Heart Attack and Stroke is to prevent the formation of new plaque. But if you already have plaque and no symptoms, you are at higher risk of experiencing a catastrophic vascular event. This is why the most important question we ask and you need to know is: How Healthy are your Arteries?