Atherosclerosis, AKA Hardening Of The Arteries is the No. 1 cause for heart disease and to it 75 percent of all deaths are due.
Atherosclerosis is particularly insidious because it develops undetected over decades with no symptoms at all. So this hardening of the arteries slowly develops over many years starting even from very early age for some individuals. Since then you can develop fatty deposits along the lining of the arteries.
Even if you appear healthy and in good shape you could suddenly be struck down by a sudden and fatal heart attack.
Coronary heart disease has become one of the ten top causes of death in the USA affecting 50 percent of all Americans and claiming 500,000 lives every year.
How Arteries Work
You know that arteries carry blood with oxygen and nutrients from the heart and lungs to other parts of the body. This blood is supposed to flow smoothly when your arteries are healthy, elastic and smooth. The problem starts when fatty deposits start building up inside your arteries, forming a plaque which irritates the arteries walls. This is the beginning of the INFLAMMATION process.
To take care of this irritation, the body deposits layers of cholesterol over the critical spots of the arteries. This process repeats whenever there is an irritation to heal thus forming a thick layer of cholesterol deposit on the walls of the arteries resulting in the progressive hardening and narrowing of these vessels.
Consequently the heart has to start pumping harder to push the blood through the which increases the blood pressure. As the incrustation of patches builds up along the arteries the chances that they break increase and when inevitably this happens the fragment broken off flowing downstream along blood flow reaches a smaller vessel blocking it. If an artery is blocked by blood clot created by the rupturing plaque you will have a heart attack.
How It All Begins
Everything begins with a bad diet, a diet that has become more unhealthy, especially in the course of the last century, and getting progressively worse. The diet of our great grandfathers was based on coarser and more natural foods, and varied in quantity, supply, and type and also dictated by seasons. Our ancestors consequently were leaner and healthier.
Nowadays we eat only very refined food laced with all sorts of chemicals to give them taste, colour, texture, odor, and loaded with bad sugars and fats, rendered capable of reaching the longest shelf lives, and always available in great and continuous supply. We consequently have lots of belly fat and get easily sick.
It has already been pointed out in other posts of this blog that belly fat, or visceral fat, consists of fat deposits around your organs which promotes the release of chemicals that cause inflammation in the arteries.
This is just the beginning.
The arteries bring the flow of blood to the whole body. When the arteries to the heart are hardening, this is what happens:
- Shortness of breath, sweating.
- Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmias)
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- Chest pain (Angina Pectoris) *
Do Not Misinterpret Chest Pain For Angina
* Chest pain can have many causes. Do not take all chest pains that you might experience as coming from Angina Pectoris.
Other misinterpreted symptoms for chest pain can be caused by:
– Pulmonary Embolism. Where a blod clot has lodged in the lungs. Obese sedentary people, travellers on long airplane flights, patients of orthopaedic surgery are the most vulnerable to this event.
– Pericarditis. Inflammation of the pericardium, the sac enveloping the heart, caused by a virus, or consequence of a heart attack.
– Acid Reflux. AKA GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). Heartburn caused by the stomack acid flowing back into the esophagus causing a sharp burning sensation in the chest. Affects mostly people overweight. A serious problm that, if left untreated causes cellular changes in the lining of the oesophagus perjuring cancer.
– Arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes calcifications of areas in the body (neck, chest and shoulders) close to the nerve that carries pain messages from the chest so the pain signal from the areas clcified by osteoarthritis is mistaken for angina. And Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the sac enveloping the heart
Gallbladder inflammation. Can cause acute abdominal pain that may radiate to the chest.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster). When the chest pain occurs before the typical rash appears it can be mistaken for angina.
Pleurisy. Inflammation of the membrane covering the lungs caused by pneumonia, and other lung conditions like viral or bacterila infections, asthma, or a blood clot.
Pain from Angina Pectoris
It occurs when the heart is working extra hard to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. This pain is experienced by people who have coronary artery disease.
Types Of Angina
Angina pectoris pain can come and go (unstable) for people who are just experiences the consequences of recently onset heart disease, while it becomes a continuous (stable) presence for people who have long-term heart disease, their plaque has become so calcified that it is less likely to rupture and cause a clot that will block the coronary artery.
Stable angina is treated especially with nitroglycerin that widens the arteries thus lowering blood pressure a letting the heart relax.
Unstable angina is the most serious form because, unlike stable angina, the plaque here has recently formed, it is still soft therefore it is more likely to rupture. If that occurs the body tries to repair it sending sending a lot of the clotting cells which unfortunately make a large clot that blocks the artery and cause a heart attack.
BUT, because coronary artery disease is a progressive disease, and new plaque is continuously forming over older one, stable angina becomes unstable angina. So if you have stable angina and experience a new, unusual, more intense type of pain that is not relieved by nitroglycerine it means a new plaque has formed and has ruptured. Rush to the hospital.
What Happens When The Arteries Harden
Arteries can harden in the brain or in the limbs
When the arteries to the brain are hardening, this is what can occur:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Alzheimer disease
- Loss of speech
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
- Stroke with brain tissue destruction
When the arteries to the limbs are hardening, these are the symptoms you can experience:
- Severe pain in the legs
- Difficult healing of the wounds
ED (Erectile Disfunction) a problem affecting a growing number of men, even at younger age, is also commonly caused by the hardening of the arteries. So check the state of your arteries before buying aphrodisiacs if you think you need just to revitalise your sexual life.
A Simple Home Test To Assess Your Risk Of Hardening Of The Arteries
Besides the many test your doctor can order you to take to measure if you are at risk of heart disease caused by the hardening of the arteries, you can start diagnosing yourself taking a simple home test:
The waist-to-hip-ratio (WTHR)
- Measure your waist at the thinnest portion of it
- Measure your hips at the widest portion of them
- Divide the waist measurement by the hips measurement
Do it taking into account that the healthy WTHR for men is less than 0.9 and for women is less than 0.8
So, for instance, if you are a male and your waist measurement is 40 inches and you hips is 38 inches, your WTHR is 1 therefore indicating that you have excess belly fat and are at risk for heart disease because you have more plaque in your arteries.
Common Noninvasive Tests to be taken for atherosclerosis diagnosis are:
- Cholesterol level
- Triglycerides level
- Rest Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Stress Electrocardiogram
An Invasive Test, called Angiogram, can be taken to determine the stage of hardening of your arteries if the first tests indicate the likelihood of atherosclerosis . Here a special dye injected into your arteries and is tracked by X-Rays as it travels through the body.
Lifestyle and Diet The Factors Most Important To Determine The Health Of Your Arteries
These factors are responsible for 85 percent of the state of your arteries, so if years of bad lifestyle have made you gain all that visceral fat practically determining the state of your arteries, modifying your lifestyle can also slowly but surely heal the state of your arteries. And this is the first natural and a logical remedy to take to improve your arteries health.
Body weight has to be controlled to eliminate your visceral fat. You can control it by:
- having a healthy diet,
- avoiding psychological stress,
- getting regular exercise,
in other words adopt and stick to a General Health Guideline for life.
A healthy diet is based only on fresh food, as raw as possible, lots of fruits and vegetable, very little or no red meat, little cold water fish, olive oil, no breads or pasta, while keeping your calories as low as possible, or around 1,500 daily calories.
Do not forget saturated fats. Saturated fats have no links to heart disease
Please note that this is a generally healthy diet BUT if you need engage in a disease reversing stage you should completely eliminate any meat and grain from your diet until health is completely restored.
Psychological stress causes the body to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol, the heart speeds up and the blood vessels constrict. When it becomes chronic, stress too contributes to increased inflammation of the body.
Exercise keeps arteries elastic at any age: walking at least 1 hour every day and weight lifting twice a week.
Arrhythmias caused by the hardening of the arteries, are dangerous because they disrupt the blood supply thus damaging the tissues that the blood is supposed to nourish. And arrhythmias may even go unnoticed for a long time.
An irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia) can happen frequently among older people, especially after 65.
The heart is basically kept working by a complex electrical system. If this system is working correctly you do not feel your heartbeat but years of working can can cause the system to malfunction thus generating an irregular heartbeat which can make you feel dizzy, short of breath, feeling your heart pounding strong and/or skipping beats, have chest pains, palpitation, feel weak or even anxious.
The electrical system of the heart consists of three parts:
The sinoatrial node which creates the electrical impulses which make the heart beat consistently. Located
in the upper right chamber of the heart, it can generate up to 80 signals per minute (the heart rate).
The atrialventricular node which distributes the electrical signals from the sinoatrial node and send them to the lower part of the heart. Located in the centre of the heart.
The HIS-Purkinie a bundle of fibers which carries the generated electricity to the ventricles which will pump the blood out of the heart.
Types of Arrhythmias
Arrhythmias which causes the heart to beat too quickly are called tachycardia and happen in the upper chambers of the heart, the atria. Arrythmias which causes the heart to beat too slowly are called bradicardia.
Arrhythmias can happen in the in the upper chambers of the heart (atrial arrhythmia) or in the lower chambers (ventricular arrhythmia).
There are two types of Atrial Arrhythmias:
Atrial Flutter (AFL), where the heart can reach up to 200-350 beats per minute, and
Atrial Fibrillation (AFB), where the heart can reach up to 300-600 beats per minute.
Atrial arrhythmias are caused by:
- Excessive Caffeine and Nicotine (stimulants) intake
- Excessively intense exercising
- Medications (for cold, cough, asthma, decongestants)
- High blood pressure
- Heavy alcohol drinking
- Thyroid disease
- Chronic lung diseases (asthma, emphysema)
Arrhythmias are diagnosed by EKG
Treatment of Arrhythmias, if they are mild, depends on your ability and will to avoiding what causes them (stimulants, exercise, medications).
For serious Arrhythmias doctors generally prescribe blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke and clots in the blood (anticoagulants)
And there are two types of Ventricular Arrhythmias:
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) Characterised by the heart beating fast (up to 250 beats per min) but unable to pump enough blood, or not having enough time to fill its chamber with blood between beats.
VT causes deprivation of blood and oxygen to the brain and the body.
Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) Characterised by the heart beating fast (up to 300 beats per min) but irregularly and weakly causing the lower chamber not to pump enough blood to the body. VF makes you dizzy, or pass out.
VF is serious and can be difficult to diagnose, its insurgence can cause almost immediate death in the affected individual if not treated with defibrillator to correct the rithm.
VF Arrhythmias Diagnosis
To be diagnosed, VF requires a test call electrophysiology (EP), a very invasive procedure where catheters are inserted through the groin and up to the heart, with the patient being sedated first, obviously.
The Treatment Of Serious VF disease involves the implantation of a special programmable and adjustable defibrillator which detects what goes on in the heart and corrects it.
When The Heart Beats Slowly
Is A Slow Beating Heart Dangerous? Is it a problem when the heart beats too slowly? or, is Bradycardia dangerous?
Even beating too slowly (less than 60 beats per min) is a problem for the body because it means that the heart doesn’t contract enough times to supply enough blood and oxygen to the body.
Though not as dangerous as Tachycardia, Bradycardia requires attention.
Treatment which can be done with the implantation of a pacemaker that will normalise the heartbeat by means of the emission of low-energy electrical impulses.
A simple and efficient treatment.
What To Do To Reduce The Risk Of Developing Arrhythmias and Heart Disease In General
There is not just one cure for the Heart.
– Lifestyle is the first thing that has to be taken into account. It’s better to stick to a healthy lifestyle forever since when you are young and healthy.
- Exercise regularly and moderately (no competitive sports).
- Adopt a Mediterranean type Diet.
- No smoking
– Take magnesium, the most important supplement to treat and prevent heart disease. Take magnesium supplements daily. Magnesium being a stabiliser of the heart electrical system, when it lacks in the body arrhythmias are more likely to occur.
Numerous studies have found low magnesium to be associated with all known cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, arterial plaque build-up, hardening of the arteries and calcification of soft tissues.
Magnesium should be taken for all conditions of the heart except for too low blood pressure or when threat of kidney failure is present.
Magnesium is indicated for the majority of heart patients particularly in its chloride oil form, via transdermal application, the definitive medicine for both the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
Transdermal magnesium is recommended because only one-third to one-half of dietary magnesium (chloride) is absorbed into the body at best, due to many things including medications an individual is on and gastrointestinal disorders that impair absorption like Chrohn’s disease.
Benefit from use of transdermal magnesium are too many to enumerate them all here, so I will cite those
just pertinent to the cure of the Metabolic Syndrome:
- Aids in hypertension
- Assists in the prevention of diabetes; enhances insulin secretion, facilitating sugar metabolism. Without magnesium, insulin is not able to transfer glucose into cells.
- Assists in the prevention of strokes and aids in recovery.
- Improves cardiac health.
- Improves overall energy production (ATP).
- Is crucial for the removal of toxins and heavy metals.
- Has calming effect on the nervous system.
- Is an anti-cholesterol aid.
- Cardiovascular disease prevention
- Important protective factor for death from acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).
- Protective factor for death from sudden cardiac death
Though the traditional allopathic conceptions of heart disease, the theory for what causes a heart attack says that heart attacks usually occur because “ blood clot forms inside a coronary artery at the site of an atherosclerotic plaque and when the blood clot cuts off blood flow to part of the heart, starving it of oxygen the heart muscle begins to die”, some doctors have noticed that sudden death by cardiac arrest is much more common in magnesium-deficient people than others. and they believe that our chances of dying from a heart attack are maximized when we ignore our magnesium needs.
Statistically, sudden death increases in areas where water supplies are magnesium-deficient.
– Avoid Inflammation. You have seen that inflammation plays a key role in a set of disorders that include type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease—called the metabolic syndrome,
Epidemiologists have found that patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease have slightly elevated levels of inflammatory markers in their bloodstream, raising the suspect that inflammation might be associated with the development of these diseases.
What is inflammation? Inflammation is the activation of the immune system in response to infection, irritation, or injury, characterized by an influx of white blood cells, redness, heat, swelling, pain, and dysfunction of the organs involved, so it can appear in different parts of the body and called with different names:
- rhinitis (inflammation of the nose),
- sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses),
- asthma (inflammation of the airways),
- arthritis (inflammation of the joints),
- dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), and so on
Chronic low-grade inflammation is one of the characteristics of the metabolic syndrome and interferes with insulin physiology.
Chronic inflammation destabilizes cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation not only further damages the artery walls, leaving them stiffer and more prone to plaque buildup, but it also makes any plaque that’s already there more fragile and more likely to burst.
What can trigger inflammation? “The factors that trigger inflammation are to be found in both our internal and external environments and include:
- excessive levels of the hormone insulin (insulin resistance),
- emotional stress,
- environmental toxins (heavy metals),
- free-radical damage,
- viral, bacterial, fungal and other pathogenic infections,
- over-consumption of hydrogenated oils,
- periodontal disease,
- radiation exposure and smoking,
- spirochetes such as the Borrelia that causes Lyme disease,
- certain pharmacological drugs.
- magnesium deficiency
Magnesium deficiency causes chronic inflammatory buildups. Some doctors believe that magnesium, together with iodine, alpha lipoic acid, sodium bicarbonate, sodium thiosulfate, whole-food vitamin C, natural vitamin D from the sun, spirulina, and some other important items like purified water that will make a big difference in the cure of a host of chronic diseases.
Some doctor even believe that heart attacks and strokes are not true diseases, but the result of nutritional deficiencies. They believe that heart disease is not caused so much by what you eat as by what you don’t eat. Accordingly, a protocol of nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E and B3, magnesium, and the mineral selenium are more important to heart health than how much cholesterol is in their diet, would wipe out the need of all the dangerous drugs the pharmaceutical companies like to promote.
– Take fish oil, a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which also stabilises the electrical activity of the heart, in supplements containing high levels of DHA (Docasapentaeonic Acid). This oil has shown the ability to reduce of 45 percent the chance of sudden cardiac death.
– Avoid psychological stress. Stress cause the release of adrenalin and cortisol into the blood flow. These hormones will elevate your blood pressure, quicken the heartbeat and fuel inflammation (rimember: inflammation is where coronary artery disease begins). Learn to relax.
-Avoiding periodontal disease. Pay attention to your teeth . Periodontal disease create a state of chronic inflammation in the body. The bacteria of the disease get in the bloodstream through the open sores of your mouth and stick to the plaque in your arteries making them narrower and increasing the inflammation.
– Check if you have autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a progressive inflammation of the joints which also raises the risk of heart disease by 50 percent. Lupus disease attacks the whole body and is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Do not take steroids for RA, nor for Lupus because they increase your risk for heart disease. Take oils from evening primrose, borage and black currant.
– Check your levels of hormones and have them replenished with bioidentical hormones if they are too low. Levels of 250-850 ng/dl of testosterone are good for men. Levels too low or too high are linked to coronary heart disease besides causing loss of sexual functions and muscle mass. For women too only bioidentical hormones have to be taken to keep oestrogen levels adequate.
– Make sure your sleep is not disrupted by apnea. When the upper airways become obstructed this causes the breathing to stop and this can happen even hundred of times during the night. This increases your blood pressure and inflammation.
Until next time.