Atherothrombosis (AT) is the underlying condition responsible for the greatest number of deaths in Singapore. AT causes heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, and peripheral artery disease (narrowing or obstruction of the arteries due to cholesterol build-up).
High blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity are all risk factors of AT. However, even though AT is the common link between these diseases and risk factors, most people do not recognise this silent killer.
AT is a global disease, meaning that a person whose heart is affected by AT (e.g. if they have had a previous heart attack) is likely to have AT affecting their brain and limbs too. This predisposes them to a stroke or peripheral artery disease.
AT begins when deposits such as cholesterol builds up in the walls of our arteries. Over the course of many years, these deposits, known as plaque, restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
As blood flows over the plaque, stress forces are exerted on the plaque surface. Eventually, built-up stress may cause the plaque to rupture, causing platelets in the blood to stick to the plaque to form a blood clot.
This clot (or thrombus) can limit or completely stop the flow of blood to part of the heart or brain, giving rise to a heart attack or stroke. That is why it is imperative that AT is treated early to reduce the risk of a life-threatening clot forming.