Arteries are thick blood vessels that transport oxygen and vital nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body.
An unhealthy diet marked by consumption of fat rich food, a sedentary lifestyle with bad habits such as smoking, stress, and high blood pressure cause endothelial injuries or damage to the artery walls. The body’s natural healing mechanism tries to repair the damage, and during this process, the fibrous tissue, collagen, triglycerides, and a few other foreign particles in the blood stream such as heavy metals and cellular waste bind with the cholesterol present in the arteries, forming a swollen yellow substance called plaque. This plaque starts accumulating over time in the crests and damaged inner or outer linings of the artery walls.
Healthy arteries remain smooth, flexible, and elastic. Plaque cause the arteries to loose their elasticity and harden, obstructing the smooth passage of blood, and leading to arteriosclerosis. Left unattended, this condition leads to stroke and heart attacks, the most common cause of death in the United States.
The symptoms of arterial plaque build-up are only noticeable at an advanced state, when the artery blockage grows to almost 70 percent. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with clogged artiers, you’ll be happy to know that there are many things you can do not only to prevent future blockage, but you can revers arterial plague build up as well.
Ways to reverse and prevent arterial plaque build-up include:
- cessation of smoking
- leading a healthy diet marked by increased exercise
- healthy diet
- dietary and medicinal supplements to accelerate healing of endothelial injury
- surgery as the last option
Image Credit: flickr.com/derek b
A major contributor to arterial plaque build-up is stress. Stress produces adrenalin and other harmful chemicals that bind to cholesterol and form plaque. A healthy and active lifestyle marked by good habits, good use of time, healthy social interaction, positive thinking, regular exercises and workouts for at least an hour a day reverse arterial plaque build-up through the following ways:
- Exercises and a relaxed stress-free condition stimulate production and secretion of endorphins and enkephalins, both opium-like substances that reduce artery plaque
- The enhanced blood circulation reduce cholesterol and other fatty acids, and strength the heart muscles, contributing to thinning of the blood. This prevents clotting and faster healing of endothelial injuries
Suggested exercise to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle include aerobics, running, swimming, and yoga.
Tobacco contains nicotine, which is the number one contributor to formation of arterial plaque in many ways:
- The nicotine and carbon monoxide found in the cigarette damages the endothelium
- Nicotine lowers the blood’s capability to hold oxygen and increases the risk of blood clot formation
- Inhalation of the toxic substances in tobacco smoke lowers the HDL or “good” cholesterol and increase LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood.
- Smoking increases the risk of malignant hypertension, a form of high blood pressure.
While quitting smoking alone would not reverse the damage, it is important to prevent further arterial plaque build-up and ensure the success of other efforts to reduce artery plaque.
High cholesterol is the major contributor to arterial plaque, for other substances bind with cholesterol to form fat.
Consumption of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as deep fried foods, foods high in trans-fat, refined foods, processed foods, alcohol, and red meat cause artery plaque build-up.
Nutrient dense foods high in fiber, low in sodium, and low in saturated fat such as whole grains, oat brain, most fruits, nuts, and vegetables help avoid and reverse arterial plaque. Fiber blocks the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and contributes to a feeling of fullness that results in lower food consumption, and consequently lower cholesterol intake.
Omega-3 Fatty acids contain antioxidants that attack free radicals and destroy plaque. Foods rich in Omega-3 include krill, walnut, fish, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
Studies at the University of Medicine, Berlin show that daily consumption of garlic helps reduce existing arterial plaque by 20 percent. Garlic contains allicin, a potent compound that destroys arterial plaque build-up.
Recent research at University of Montpelliar suggests that pure juice could reduce arterial plaque. Consumption of four glasses of fresh, additive-free, high-antioxidant content juice a day help flush the arteries of plaque. The Molecular Nutrition and Food Research suggest purple grape juice as the best juice against arterial plaque build-up. Apple, carrot, and pomegranate juices rank next.
The recommended intake pattern is to consume the juice first thing in the morning and abstain from other foods for around half an hour, to allow absorption of the juice into the body.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Sebastian Mary
Supplements and Medications
Vitamin C and Vitamin E Supplements create a detergent-like action in the blood circulatory system, and allow the body to wash the plaque deposits away. Another proven supplement that attacks plaque is garlic supplements.
Oral chelating agents enter the bloodstream and bind to the materials in plaque. The body filters such bound materials and flushes them out of the blood. A compounded complex of magnesium and protein amino is most effective to reverse and reduce calcified arterial plaque buildup in the human body.
Reversing extreme high levels of plaque build-up would require medication to reverse the tissue damage and stop the inflammation process that causes plaque formation. The major medication for this purpose includes statins, ezetimibe, fibrates, bile acid binding resins, and nacin.
Statins and fibrates block the production of the cholesterol in the liver, lower triglycerides, and raise good cholesterol. Ezetimibes inhibits cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Bile acid resin prevents the reabsorbing of cholesterol rich bile into the circulatory system. Niacin, a B-complex vitamin lowers LDL and raises HDL.
When the plaque build-up reaches an advanced stage and other options become ineffective, the last option to reduce artery plaque is surgery. The two common surgical methods include:
- Bypass surgery, where the surgeon use segments of healthy veins or arteries from other parts of the body to bypass the blocked parts of the coronary vessel.
- Angioplasty or opening of the artery by a balloon and placing a stent, a metal latticework to prop open the blood vessel.
Please read this disclaimer regarding the information you have just read.
- Chua, Philip S. Arteriosclerosis
- Dr Razavi. The Role of Cholesterol in a Heart Attack
- Merck. Atherosclerosis
- Reversingatherosclerosis.com. Reversing Atherosclerosis: The Nutritional Approach