February 1, 2017

Atherosclerosis is a complex chronic disease characterized by the accumulation of lipids within arterial walls that eventually go on to form plaques, which can cause narrowing, hardening, and/or complete blockage of arteries.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood.  Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries, reducing blood flow to your organs (such as your heart) and other parts of your body.  This can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death. Atherosclerosis can affect the medium-sized and large arteries of the brain, the heart, the kidneys and the legs. The effects of atherosclerosis differ depending upon which arteries in the body narrow and become clogged with plaque. If the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your heart are affected, the person may have coronary artery disease, chest pain, or a heart attack. If the arteries to the brain are affected, the person may have a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke. If the arteries in the arms or legs are affected, the person may develop peripheral artery disease. There are chances of developing a bulge in the artery wall (aneurysm) too.

A partial blockage of an artery in the heart by atherosclerosis leads to a type of chest pain called angina. If that blockage becomes complete and a part of the heart muscle dies, the result is called a heart attack also known in medical terms as a myocardial infarction. When atherosclerosis causes the total obstruction of an artery in the brain, the result is a stroke. Atherosclerosis, then, is the underlying cause of most serious heart and circulatory problems.


The exact cause of atherosclerosis isn’t known. Research suggests that atherosclerosis starts when certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include smoking, high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, and high amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes.

Many researchers believe it begins with an injury to the innermost layer of the artery, known as the endothelium. Researchers believe the following factors contribute to the damage:


  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • An accumulation of homocysteine. An amino acid produced by the human body, thought to be a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, and dementia.
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history of heart disease

Once the artery is damaged, blood cells called platelets build up there to try and heal the injury. Over time, fats, cholesterol, and other substances also build up at the site, which thickens and hardens the artery wall. The blood flow through the artery is decreased, and the oxygen supply to organs also decreases. Blood clots may form, blocking the artery and cutting off blood supply to other organs.

Environmental Causes – Heavy metal toxicity plays a role in atherosclerosis. Zinc deficiency, copper deficiency, or cadmium toxicity, weaken arterial walls and as a compensatory measure, the body deposits calcium or fatty substances to reinforce arterial strength. Imbalance in the calcium/magnesium ratio or an elevated calcium level may be associated with deposits of calcium in arteries. This response to toxicity and nutrient deficiencies hardens the arteries.

Many other toxins screw up cholesterol chemistry and contribute to hardening of the arteries. Phthalates in soft plastics and water bottles leach out into food and water that then sit in your cells and damage their ability to properly metabolize cholesterol. Teflon from your frying pan or mercury from fish and dental fillings also damage your cholesterol chemistry. There are thousands of industrial chemicals working synergistically to destroy your body and its ability to protect itself. The only answer is to educate yourself on toxic substances, avoid them and detox your body of these poisons.

Who is at Risk?

Risk factors for atherosclerosis may include –

  • Being male
  • If female, being past menopause
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol or triglycerides (fats in the blood)
  • Low HDL (“good”) chol esterol
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • A family history of heart disease, stroke, or arterial disease
  • Elevated homocysteine levels
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diets high in saturated fat and trans fatty acids (trans fats)
  • Depression
  • Obstructive sleep apnea


Many times, people with atherosclerosis do not have any symptoms until an artery is 40% clogged with plaque. Symptoms vary depending upon which arteries are affected.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain – usually located in the centre of your chest and giving the sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing
  • Pain in other parts of the body that can feel as though it is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm, although both arms can be affected), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick
  • Lightheadedness
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

If the artery is narrowed rather than blocked, atherosclerosis usually doesn’t cause symptoms until the inside of the artery has been narrowed by more than 70%. In this case, the first symptom is often pain or cramps whenever the blood flow can’t keep up with the muscles’ need for oxygen. This can cause chest pain (angina) while exercising if the heart muscle is affected, or leg pain while walking if the leg muscles are affected.


Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. CHD can lead to angina (chest pain) and heart attack. CHD is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the carotid arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain. Carotid artery disease can lead to stroke.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the major arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your limbs and pelvis. PAD can lead to numbness and pain and may cause infections.


  • Medications – The doctor may prescribe medications to prevent the build up of plaque or to help prevent blood clots (anteplatelets). Other medications such as statins, Niacin (nicotinic acid), Bile acid sequestrants, Cholesterol absorption inhibitors, Fibric acid derivatives, may be prescribed to lower cholesterol, and Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to lower blood pressure.
  • Surgeries – Severe cases of atherosclerosis may be treated by surgical procedures, such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). Angioplasty involves expanding the artery and opening the blockage, so that the blood can flow through properly again. CABG is another form of surgery that can improve blood flow to the heart by using arteries from other parts of the body to bypass a narrowed coronary artery.

Alternative Medicine – This treatment helps improve heart condition and the condition of arteries.

  • Multivitamin – Vitamins help to prevent unnecessary blood clots that can block arteries. It is also necessary to control the amino acid homocysteine which appears to damage artery linings and encourage heart disease. itamin B12 deficiency has been associated with elevated levels of the dangerous homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid produced by the body, can damage the inner surface of arteries. This can be treated and/or prevented with vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Many cardiologists are now using B-vitamins to help prevent coronary artery disease.
  • Folic Acid – Folic acid helps to control homocysteine, an amino acid that seems to play a major role in clogging the arteries.
  • Calcium – Calcium is believed to help keep cholesterol under control and may prevent dangerous blood clots. Too much calcium may increase the risk of heart disease, especially if there is much too much calcium in relation to magnesium.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of CHD, heart attacks and improper heartbeats (ventricular tachyarrhythmias).
  • Selenium – The amount of selenium in the blood and red blood cells may be related to the risk of CHD and heart attacks. Lower the level of selenium, the more the risk. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to prevent the conversion of LDL into its more artery-damaging, oxidized form. It may also help to “thin” the blood,” minimizing the blood clots and the heart attack.
  • Co-enzymes – Adequate levels of CoQ10 is necessary for a well functioning system. When the levels of CoQ10 drops below optimum levels, the disease takes over or already had done so. Heart muscle biopsies in patients with various cardiac diseases showed a CoQ10 deficiency in 50-75 percent of the cases. On the corollary, all the well functioning hearts had an adequate amount of CoQ10 in the tissue. When supplemental CoQ10 was introduced into the ailing hearts, they started getting signs of new life. CoQ10 increases oxygenation of heart tissue.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation, lowers blood lipids (especially triglycerides), improve blood viscosity, and normalize heart rhythms.
  • Garlic – Long revered for its health benefits, garlic is rich in antioxidants and increases nitric oxide production.
  • R-Lipoic Acid – R-lipoic acid improves endothelial function by, and the antioxidant also enhanced the benefits of a drug used to treat heart disease.
  • Curcumin – Curcumin is world-renowned for reducing inflammation and pain. Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric.


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