Arteriosclerosis

arteriosclerosis – the silent villain of your heart

I’ve always been known for my sweet tooth, but never expected that all those gummy worms, peanut butter cups and french fries would lead me to a hospital bed. Growing up, I always indulged in fried food; sweet and savory. On the outside I seemed healthy, but my body hid a secret. At the age of 38, I had a  heart attack and had to undergo immediate angioplasty. The procedure removed 3 blocks from my coronary artery.  I was told that, if I don’t start taking my health seriously, I wouldn’t survive another attack.

Client No: 2219
coronary artery with plaques

These blocks (in common man’s term) are known as Arteriosclerosis and is one of the leading causes of all coronary diseases.

What is Arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is a kind of degeneration or softening of the inner lining of the blood vessel walls. It results in the loss of elasticity of the blood vessels and causes narrowing of the smaller arteries, which interferes with the free circulation of blood. These changes may gradually extend to capillaries and veins. Arteriosclerosis is more frequent in men than women, especially in the younger age group. It has been evaluated that 40% of men over 40 yrs have a significant level of obstruction in their coronary arteries that can lead to heart attacks anytime.

As mentioned earlier, arteriosclerosis causes thickening and loss of resilience in the arterial wall due to the deposition of calcium or lime, often known as plaques. The plaque can cause the arteries to narrow, blocking blood flow. It can also burst, leading to a blood clot. Although it can affect arteries anywhere in your body, the riskiest place to have the condition is in the coronary vessels of the heart and the arteries leading to the brain.

Causes

Arteriosclerosis can be considered a lifestyle disease. The main reason for its occurrence is our unhealthy eating habits like:

  • Excessive intake of white sugar,
  • Highly refined foods
  • Consumption of a high-fat diet rich in cholesterol
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Our sedentary lifestyle also plays a major role in worsening the condition. Other factors that contribute to arteriosclerosis are high BP, obesity, diabetes, rheumatism, malaria, syphilis and emotional stress, etc.

Symptoms

The symptoms may vary with the arteries associated with the condition. The first sign of arteriosclerosis is the inadequate blood supply that generally appears first in the legs. There may be numbness and coldness in the feet. Cramps and pains in the legs even after exercise. If the coronary arteries are involved, the patient may experience sharp pains in the pectorals. If it is in the brain arteries, the vessels may burst to cause hemorrhage in the brain tissue and it may lead to a cerebral vascular stroke with partial or one side paralysis. If the patient’s blood vessels lose the circulation ability due to a blood clot, it can lead to loss of memory and a confused state of mind in elderly people. If arteries leading to kidneys are involved, the patient may suffer from high BP and kidney disorders.

Prevention

Exercise

It is now generally agreed that in middle-aged adults, regular physical activity helps in correcting cardiac risk factors, and preventing the onset of clinically manifest ischemic heart disease (Berlin and Colditz 1990) Pate et al.1995. A substantial minimum weekly expenditure (equivalent to a walking distance of 18-20 km per week) is needed to enhance the lipid profile of middle-aged adults (Kavanagh Et al.1983, Williams et al.1982)). For a person with an existing silent coronary vascular disease, an increase in the physical activity level will improve his/her lipid profile and may delay the rate of progression of diseases. Heart-related diseases can develop with any given level of coronary arterial obstruction, depending upon the oxygen consumption of the heart. The oxygen demanded by the heart is proportional to the product of blood pressure and heart rate. Both these factors can be altered by proper exercise.

Regular aerobic exercise can help fight arteriosclerosis by reducing the amount of fat in your blood, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling your weight. Recent research has shown that older adults who engage in regular aerobic exercise training have lower arterial stiffness than sedentary older adults (KennethM Madden et al. 2009).

Nutrition

Make changes to your diet. A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels. When you have high cholesterol, more plaques will be formed to line artery walls and narrow your arteries. Choose a nutrition protocol with lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, pulses, and whole grains like oats, rice, and whole wheat. It has been proven that for the healthy adult population, low consumption of salt and foods of animal origin, and increased intake of plant-based foods—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts—are linked with reduced atherosclerosis risk. The same applies to replacing butter and other animals/tropical fats with olive oil and other unsaturated-fat-rich oil.

Further Reads

https://www.tctmd.com/news/accelerated-atherosclerosis-not-uncommon-arteries-young-people

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.cir.103.22.2705

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/188840

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/atherosclerosis-your-arteries-age-by-age

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