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Heart Disease and Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries is the main cause of coronary heart disease, the number one cause of death of adults in the United States. The American Heart Association estimates that over 17 million Americans suffer from heart disease.
Both atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic vascular calcifications show how the body responds to both the genetic and lifestyle factors which define your risk. Some of these issues are controllable, other are not. Both conditions illustrate a harmful effect resulting from excess fat, cholesterol, or calcium in the body. In the closed system of the body, the condition is covered rather than eliminated.
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Both conditions are illustrated by an inappropriate build-up of some substance in the body. In the case of atherosclerosis, plaque builds up within the inner lining of arteries, restricting blood flow. Calcification often occurs as a result of atherosclerosis. Calcification can also occur without atherosclerosis, though the exact mechanisms are not understood.
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Complications of Vascular Calcifications
One concern of atherosclerotic vascular calcifications is the effect on the heart’s structure. The fear is that the restricted blood flow will cause the heart to work harder, resulting in an enlarged heart. Logically, this would appear to make sense. The restricted blood flow resulting from atherosclerosis will not diminish the body’s need for oxygen. The body can only respond by working harder.
However, a 2005 study in the journal, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, found that the incidence of atherosclerosis and vascular calcification was independent of heart structure and enlargement. It was unclear whether dealing with either condition prevented heart enlargement.
The research shows that atherosclerosis and vascular calcification are often associated together. A 2008 study in the Chinese Medical Journal showed that the calcification can occur at any stage of atherosclerosis. When it occurs, the risks of arterial obstruction increase. To prevent atherosclerotic vascular calcifications, it would then appear logical to reduce your risk for atherosclerosis to prevent this complication.
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Prevention of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Calcification
One way you can prevent atherosclerosis and thus reduce your risk of vascular calcifications is to eat a healthy diet which is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that your diet contain no more than 35 percent of calories from fat.
Exercise will increase your body’s HDL or good cholesterol which will reduce your total cholesterol. HDL assists in the transport of cholesterol to your liver where it is metabolized and eliminated. Reducing your cholesterol intake reduces the burden on the liver to manage cholesterol levels. These two lifestyle changes can diminish your risk of coronary heart disease and the complications caused by vascular calcifications.
Photo by Dorota Kaszczyszyn, stock.xchng
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American Heart Association: Cardiovascular Disease Statistics
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Chapter 6 Fats
A. Yildiz et al. Atherosclerosis and vascular calcification are independent predictors of left ventricular hypertrophy in chronic haemodialysis patients. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, February 2005; 20 (4): 760-767.
M. Zhang et al. Does treatment with statins have the potential of enhancing vascular calcification? Chinese Medical Journal, March 2008; 121 (5): 473-474.