Pathophysiology of atherosclerosis

Pathophysiology of atherosclerosis is irreversible; only prevention makes sense.


So, you've been told you have a damaged aorta or, perhaps worse still, hardening of the cerebral arteries. Actually, in this latter case, it's likely your family that would be told; by the time it's been diagnosed there's a good chance you've already lost your marbles and won't have a clue about the diseases of blood vessels.

Atherosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a disease of civilisation. It's common in all Western societies and rare in societies that have not come in contact with urbanisation.

  • It all begins with a small injury to a blood vessel wall. That could be a viral or bacterial infection, exposure to certain chemicals and smoking is considered the greatest risk factor. Something toxic causes a small lesion in the inner lining, known as the intima.
  • In people with high LDL, the bad cholesterol, fat droplets start being deposited at the site of injury.


Atherosclerosis definition



An aside: What do the terms HDL and LDL mean and why are they so important? Read more at this site on EXERCISE AND CHOLESTEROL ...

Pathophysiology of atherosclerosis

Pathophysiology of atherosclerosis causes hardening of the arteries.

The next steps in the atherosclerosis disease process are

  • Droplets of fat in the intima of the blood vessel wall are recognised by the immune system as a foreign body provoking an attack from T cells seeking to protect the artery from the invading substance which is fat droplets. This is even more dangerous once this cholesterol has become oxidised.





  • The T cells especially do not recognise the oxidised droplets of cholesterol in the wall of the artery as being normal, attacking the enemy and setting up a powerful inflammatory process deep within arteries, often at numerous sites throughout the arterial system. Of this slow progression of serious disease deep within our blood vessels we are totally unaware. We may feel perhaps some malaise, or tiredness, but we cannot connect with this as the beginnings of hardening of the arteries; this is the  the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. Most significant, the lumen of the artery is becoming narrowed, and the heart has to pump harder to get sufficient blood through the narrowed vessel.
  • Smooth muscles cells in the intima begin to proliferate further narrowing the lumen of the artery.
  • "Sticky" blood cells now begin to attach themselves to the site of the injury adding to the plaque.
  • A piece of this plaque breaks free, called an embolus or clot, travelling along the artery until it reaches a small artery in the lungs, brain, heart... lung infarct, stroke, heart attack...

All in all, the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis is extremely complex and still being unravelled by scientists.



"If the only tool you have is a hammer,

you tend to see every problem as a nail."

- Abraham Maslow


Prevention of Atherosclerosis

It's long been known that oats is the most powerful foodstuff in the fight to lower elevated bad cholesterol, a big factor in the causes and prevention of atherosclerosis. Quaker Oats recipes ...

A researcher at Tufts University, Mohsen Meydani, working in the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and nutrition has now proved that oats does much more than simply lower blood cholesterol. Oats contains an antioxidant that prevents sticky blood cells from adhering to the walls of damaged arteries, even reducing hypertension, for example.




Work is continuing on how oats not only reduces the inflammatory changes that build up in arterial cells walls damaged by atherosclerosis disease, but also helps by reducing the proliferation of damaged smooth muscle cells than line the inner walls of all arteries.

So, don't be totally despondent if you've been told you have atherosclerosis of the aorta for example, the very large artery that supplies the bowel and legs. Whilst attempts to reverse atherosclerosis are probably in vain you can do much to prevent the further proliferation of atherosclerosis symptoms and disease at this site of inflammation and at new sites.

How much a loved one with cerebral atherosclerosis can be helped is less certain. But what's the harm in trying 2-3 tablespoons of oats every morning for breakfast? Almost certainly cheaper than all the frosties, crispies and toasties on the market.

More, research is now suggesting that that raised bad cholesterol is not caused by animal fat; high glycemic carbs are the demon. Butter is back, and white rice and white bread are definitely out, as all the sugary bagels and refined flour goodies; chocolate cake and the like. Whoops, baddies, not goodies.

Just as important is researchers are now finding that the antioxidant in oats also prevents any cancer cells that line the inner wall of your bowel from proliferating too.

(Agricultural Research Feb 2010)


Delicious Oats breakfast

  1. Add 2-3 TBSP of dry oats to a bowl.
  2. Add a handful of dried raisins, dried fruit, favourite nuts and seeds.
  3. Add a cup of boiling water.
  4. No sugar is necessary but perhaps half a tsp of raw honey.
  5. Leave to soak for perhaps 20-30 mins. Perhaps microwave for one minute if it's too chewy.
  6. Chop in some of your favourite fruit. Perhaps strawberries, grapes, blueberries ...
  7. Add a couple TBSP of yoghurt.



Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in certainly oily foods, but especially fatty fish, freshly ground flaxseeds, walnuts and to a lesser extent other nuts like pecans, are a vital part in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

They are "essential" fatty acids, meaning your body can't make them from other fats. If you don't omega-3 foods regularly, you will develop atherosclerosis of the arterties.



Atherosclerosis symptoms

It all depends on which artery is blocked. If it's one of the lumbar arteries, then you are likely to have repeated episodes of lower back pain, because the injured tissues in your back will simply not be getting enough blood; atherosclerosis symptoms are complex and varied.

If it's the one of the coronary arteries, then chest pain with exercise will be the order of the day, as the heart muscle doesn't get enough blood; angina.

If it's one of the iliac arteries that pass through the groin on the way to the leg, then you will get pain in the leg WITH EXERCISE. As soon as you rest, the pain goes away.

If you love to read, enjoy this freebie from my third book, Stones in my Clog, fascinating anecdotes from Bernie Preston's chiropractic coalface. Is it possible that a chiropractor could diagnose a blocked artery that medicine had missed for two years? Nope, it wasn't sciatica after all as they told him. Two simple basic tests made the diagnosis, confirmed by an angiogram, but the old rule repeats itself again and again: IF YOU DON'T LOOK FOR IT, YOU WON'T FIND IT.



This is the arteriogram taken after Bernie referred his patient to a vascular surgeon. Truth be told: I wasn't surprised, but all his doctors were. Walking gave him pain in the calf and he didn't have a pulse in the ankle.

One of the best things for early cerebral atherosclerosis is brain exercise. If you enjoyed this short story, the whole book costs only $2.99, downloaded as a pdf file directly on to you computer. Feed your brain, have lots of laughs and not a few sober moments, and support this website. Just $2.99 ... Our Store ... look for Stones in my Clog.



Atherosclerosis of the aorta

The pathophysiology of atherosclerosis also weakens the walls of arteries allowing for a bulging of the artery known as an "aneurism". Aneurisms are silent and deadly; it all begins with inflammation and atherosclerosis of the aorta, for example.

As the blood pressure rises, caused by the general narrowing of the arteries forcing the heart to pump harder, the bulge in the aneurism silently increases in size. Then one day, poof... a bout of coughing, bearing down too hard on the toilet, a fit of rage, rushing across a busy street increases the pressure sufficiently to burst the artery. In the case of the aorta, the usual result is very sudden death.

A narrowing of the artery by atherosclerosis of the aorta simply reduces blood flow to the various organs, notably the kidneys, the intestines, the spine and legs.


Intermittent Claudication

Intermittent claudication causes pain in muscles whilst exercising, but quickly relieved by rest; it's a sure sign of an advanced stage of the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis.

This reduced blood flow to the legs produces a strange syndrome characterised by no symptoms whilst the sufferer is at rest, but pain in a muscle(s) starved of oxygen as soon as it is forced to exercise. Resting immediately alleviates the pain as the need for oxygen in the muscle is reduced.

Walking produces severe pain in the calf, cycling in the thigh muscle.

The sign your chiropractor will look for to distinguish between claudication and sciatica is the presence of the pulse in the ankle and on the foot.

Low Back Pain

Postmortem studies have found a strong correlation between artheriosclerosis of the aorta and degenerative disc disease; that means chronic low back pain. The tissues of the spine simply don't get enough oxygen to heal after injury resulting in the development of the difficult lower back.

Homocysteine

Homocysteine is the normal breakdown product of protein metabolism. But it's high toxic to blood vessels and is immediately converted into two other substances in the body. But this process is utterly dependent on certainly B vitamins and zinc; without them there is certain onset of inflammation in the body including the arteries; pathophysiology of atherosclerosis. 

Folk who do not consume enough of these vital substances will have raised homocysteine in the blood. It's even more toxic than raised LDL cholesterol.

One of the those substances is betaine, found naturally in beets, after which it is named, spinach and 100% whole wheat; high dietary intake decreases the inflammatory markers by more than 20%. It's one of the reasons why men enjoying whole grains for breakfast (but not if they are refined) have a 29% lower risk of heart failure.

That could be a whole grain muesli, cooked rolled oats, or just a slice of 100% wholewheat toast; many folk have stomach pain with a raw breakfast cereal. Best to my mind is eggs Florentine on a slice of 100% wholewheat toast; it contains plentiful betaine, choline, magnesium and all the B vitamins.


Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral easily lost in the water used to cook vegetables; it's very important to prevent the development of the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis in blood vessels.

There's quite strong research coming out now that adequate magnesium in the diet is vital for preventing the inflammation that affects the wall of the arteries, and especially those of the heart.

How much is adequate? About 400mg per day and not many people on a typical Western diet are getting enough. Unfortunately, taking it in pill form is not as affective as getting it from your food. Dark green leafy veg, beans, nuts...

Research in Japan shows that getting enough magnesium will reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by a massive 50%. See how you can EASILY increase the magnesium in your diet: Magnesium heart ...



Going to seed

For plants, going to seed is a normal part of the cycle of life and death.

But figuratively speaking, it's the avoidable part of slipping relentlessly towards an early, premature demise. And no where is it seen more clearly than in the aging of our blood vessels. When they are unable to get fresh, nutrient rich blood to our body parts, it's the beginning of the end.

Not much is written about the venous return of blood, but it's important too. There's new research coming out that even diseases like MS may be caused by a poor vascular system removing wastes from the brain

Whether it's the brain, the heart, the musculo skeletal system, the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis is a subject that should absorbe us if we plan to live to a healthy and hearty eighty, with all our marbles intact.


Foods that reduce inflammation

Foods that reduce inflammation is primarily about blood vessels, but also concerns the pain in muscles and joints.



» Pathophysiology of atherosclerosis.


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