What is Atherosclerosis?

By Elana B. Multi award-winning writer, advertiser, speaker and internationally published author

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What exactly is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium and other substances in and on your artery walls (plaques), which can restrict blood flow. These plaques are what create “hardening of the arteries.” These plaques can also burst, triggering a blood clot. Although atherosclerosis is often considered a heart problem, it can affect arteries anywhere in your body.

2113ab_Atherosclerosis 2.5 x 1.
Your blood circulates throughout your body, and is necessary for every single physical function. Due to this, anything that inhibits this process can be very dangerous. Certain areas of the body plagued with these conditions can be even more dangerous or life threatening. Atheroclerosis of the aorta is very serious, involving the main artery that services the heart. Cerebral atherosclerosis, involves arteries of the brain. Both conditions are serious, but can be even more so when they affect arteries that service major organs.

While atherosclerosis can block and harden your arteries, there are ways to help reverse the damage being done. The inflammation of atherosclerosis may be caused by a response to oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL), chronic infection, or other factors; such as C-reactive protein. The inflammatory reaction triggers damage to the cells and a whole new set of problems and conditions arise, wreaking havoc on the arteries. 

Artery walls and streaks of fat clogging arteriesWhat damage does atherosclerosis cause?
Plaque may partially or totally block the blood’s flow through an artery in the heart, brain, pelvis, legs, arms or kidneys. Two things that can happen where plaque occurs:

  • A piece of the plaque may break off
  • A blood clot (thrombus) may form

If either occurs and blocks the artery, a heart attack or stroke may result.

Some of the diseases that may develop as a result of atherosclerosis include:

  1. Coronary heart disease
  2. Angina (chest pain)
  3. Carotid artery disease
  4. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  5. Chronic kidney disease

Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease. It is known that it may start in childhood. In some people the disease progresses rapidly which results with major health problems in their 30s, sometimes even younger. In many other people, it doesn’t become dangerous until they reach their 50s or 60s. However, it is normal to have some hardening of the arteries as you get older. The best way to reduce the progression and minimize hardening of the arteries is to start taking precautionary measures with children.

Cut out Fried Foods and Starches - Artery Cloggers

Cut out Fried Foods and Starches – Artery Cloggers

How does atherosclerosis start and progress?

Many scientists believe plaque begins to form because the inner lining of the artery, called the endothelium, becomes damaged. Three possible causes of damage to the arterial wall are:

 

Quit smoking

Quit smoking

 

Smoking greatly aggravates and speeds up the growth of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, the aorta and the arteries of the legs.

Fats, cholesterol, platelets, cellular debris and calcium accumulate over time in the artery wall. These substances may stimulate the cells of the artery wall to produce other substances, resulting in the accumulation of more cells in the innermost layer of the artery wall where the atherosclerotic lesions form. These cells accumulate, and many divide. At the same time, fat builds up within and around these cells. They also form connective tissue. “Connective tissue” is the most prominent and clinically important component of the atherosclerotic lesions, particularly those in the medium size arteries, such as the coronary and cerebral vessels. These ever-enlarging lesions are the component responsible for the intrusion upon the lumen (the inside space of a tubular structure such as the arteries) and its resulting consequences.

The arterial wall thickens by these accumulating cells and surrounding material. This narrows the artery and reduces blood flow, which, in turn, decreases the oxygen supply. Due to this, blood clots can form and block the artery, which stops the flow of blood. If the oxygen supply to the heart muscle is reduced, a heart attack can occur. If the oxygen supply to the brain is cut off, a stroke can occur. And if the oxygen supply to the extremities is compromised, i.e., reduced or stopped, gangrene can result.

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Regular Exercise Helps Reduce Plaque in Arteries

Regular Exercise Helps

What can I do to help prevent or reduce my risk of developing atherosclerosis?

The main treatment for atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes. Some people who have atherosclerosis have no signs or symptoms. They may not be diagnosed until after a heart attack or stroke. That’s why it is important to have regular check-ups and to have blood work done which can test for good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, as well as other mediators and precursors that can cause damage to your whole body.

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet
  • Cut out trans fats
  • Saturated fats
  • Watch cholesterol and the foods that affect it negatively
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates
  • Avoid most salt. If using a small amount, use Natural Himalayan Pink Salt
  • Exercise
  • Do not smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet

Healthy foods to help reduce the plaque in your arteries

Flickr/aoshi_88, Licensed under Creative Commons

Healthy Meals Reduce Plaque

      • Avocados
        • Contain omega-3 fatty acids that are shown to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart diseases
      • Walnuts 
        • Rich in essential fats, vitamin E and other antioxidants.
      • Salmon
        • Fatty fish like salmon should be included in the diet for some good protein and fats

 

Virgin coconut oil

Despite the fact that coconuts contains saturated fat, most of its percentage is shown to reduce bad cholesterol in the body.The fats are also burned quickly for energy so they won’t be deposited.

Organic whole eggs

Although most saturated fat in processed foods is bad for you, the saturated fat in the yolk can actually reduce cholesterol

Pumpkin seeds 

  • Loaded with essential trace minerals and also a high source of protein and healthy fats

Cod liver oil  

  • Rich vitamins A and D and is shown to reduce cholesterol. Avoid it if you spend too much time in the sunlight or if you are pregnant

Spinach 

  • Rich in potassium and folic acids, both of which act as a defense against high blood pressure.
  • Spinach is also rich in lutein, a plant carotenoid which not only protects against age related macular degeneration but also prevents heart attacks by keeping arteries free from cholesterol build up.

Chili peppers 

  • Increase your metabolism, burn fat and decrease blood pressure with chilies.

Green tea

  • Antioxidants in green tea can reduce inflammation causing free radicals that may be a reason behind the buildup plaque in arteries.
Help Prevent Hardening of the Arteries

Help Prevent Hardening of the Arteries

      • Pomegranates and pomegranate juice
        • Pomegranate juice not only appears to prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage, but it may also reverse the progression of this disease.
        • Pomegranate fruit and its juice are high in antioxidant content, which may help fight hardening of the arteries.

 

 

  • Grapes 
  • Grapes are rich in flavonoids, quercetin, and resveratrol. These flavonoids have been found to prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol that leads to the formation of plaque in artery walls. They also lower the risk of developing blood clots that can lead to heart attacks.
  • Cranberry juice
  • This juice helps reduce the fat in arteries. Instead of having fat build up in your blood vessels, this juice boosts your cell’s ability to absorb the fat and use it for production of energy. (not the kind of cranberry juice loaded with sugar).
  • article-201361548122429544000 Blueberries cranberriesBlueberries
  • Blueberries rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants (free-radical-fighting-champs). One cup offers 14% of the recommended daily dose of fiber and nearly ¼ of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
  • What else is great about blueberries? There is less than 100 calories in one full cup.

 

 

If you already have symptoms, you also may need medicines and medical procedures; however, these foods, lifestyle changes, and treatments, along with ongoing medical care, can help you live a healthier and longer life.

 

Consult your doctor before using any health treatment, plan or activity — including vitamins, herbal supplements and natural remedies. Also, tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling.


About the author: Elana B. is a multi award-winning writer, speaker, and internationally published author. As a writer and ghostwriter she has written hundreds of stories from shorts to books to screenplays.

A gifted storyteller, Elana B.’s new children’s series, Too Terribly Busy and the “Too Terribly” Series of books, teach in a fun, creative way some of the most important lessons in life. Through this entertaining series of books, children will learn morals, manners, how important it is to achieve goals, as well as conflict resolution. Sneak peek of the first story in the new series: TooTerriblyBusy-SP1.

More by Elana B. and other related articles:

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