Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about atherosclerosis. After all, you can’t see any buildup of waxy plaque that may exist in your arteries, and the disease doesn’t make itself known until it’s advanced. ”
It can progress for decades before you have symptoms like chest discomfort or shortness of breath,” explains Dr. Ron Blankstein, a cardiovascular imaging specialist and preventive cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Yet atherosclerosis quietly and invisibly puts many millions of people at risk for heart attack, stroke, leg amputation, disability, and even death.
Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your .
Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.
Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death.
Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected.
ISCHEMIC HEART DISEASE
Ischemic heart disease happens when the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the tissues of the heart when it is needed during periods of stress or physical effort.
Coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease, is a type of ischemic heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
This buildup can partially or totally block blood flow in the large arteries of the heart. If blood flow to your heart muscle is reduced or blocked, you may have angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack.
Coronary microvascular disease is another type of ischemic heart disease. It occurs when the heart’s tiny arteries do not function normally.
Eat These 10 Foods to Cleanse Your Arteries
Include antioxidants from fruits and vegetables
Harmful molecules known as free radicals can oxidizeTrusted Source low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood in a process called oxidative stress. This process contributes to inflammation and plaque in the arteries.
Antioxidants can counteract oxidative stress, which could be why the antioxidant-rich Mediterranean diet is beneficial for atherosclerosis.
Studies suggest that antioxidants are beneficialTrusted Source for cardiovascular health, but researchers do not all agree.
Many studies use synthetic forms of antioxidants, which may act differently than natural antioxidants from food sources.
A 2015 reviewTrusted Source looked at the evidence for a plant-based diet in preventing atherosclerosis-related coronary artery disease. The study suggested that red meat increases the molecule trimethylamine N-oxide, which contributes to atherosclerosis.
In contrast, polyphenols, a group of antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables, may decreaseTrusted Source the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Avoid unhealthful fats and sugar
The American Heart Association advise people to reduce their consumption of saturated fats and eliminate trans fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol.
However, some research suggests that saturated fat does not clog the arteries.
People also need to be wary of factors other than fat. Eating foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates can increase triglycerides in the blood and boost the risk of heart disease.
Overall, the evidence supports a Mediterranean-style diet of antioxidant-rich plant foods, olive oil, and nuts. People should be aware of their saturated fat and sugar intake and avoid all trans fats.
The No. 1 killer on the planet is heart disease, which accounts for one in four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What makes heart disease so deadly is the progressive buildup of plaque in the arteries, which narrows the inner walls, restricting and ultimately blocking the flow of blood.
Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to different tissues in the body. When plaque builds up and blood flow becomes inhibited, these clogged or blocked arteries can lead to more serious problems such as heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. So what can you do to keep your arteries healthy and free of blockage? Food can be used as a natural remedy to regress blockage and prevent further damage to your arteries. Here are 10 of the best foods you can eat to free your arteries of build-up.
Asparagus is one of the best foods to cleanse your arteries. Full of fiber and minerals, it helps lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots that can lead to serious cardiovascular illness. It works within the veins and arteries to alleviate inflammation that may have accumulated over time. It boosts the body’s production of glutathione, an antioxidant that fights inflammation and prevents damaging oxidation that causes clogged or blocked arteries. It also contains alpha-linoleic acid and folic acid, which prevent hardening of the arteries.
There are many great recipes for asparagus. Steam it, roast it, grill it and even eat it raw in salads.
Avocado helps reduce the “bad” cholesterol and increase the “good cholesterol” that helps to clear the arteries. It also contains vitamin E, which prevents cholesterol oxidation, as well as potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure. Avocados are a delicious replacement for mayo on a sandwich, or as a salad topping, and of course, in guacamole.
Broccoli can prevent artery clogging because it is loaded with vitamin K, which prevents calcium from damaging the arteries. Broccoli also prevents cholesterol oxidation and is full of fiber, which lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress can lead to tearing and plaque build-up of arterial walls. These little trees also contain sulforaphane, which helps the body use protein to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.
It is recommended to have two to three servings of broccoli per week for the maximum benefits. Broccoli is another versatile vegetable—it tastes great grilled, roasted or steamed and is a great side dish.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish—mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and tuna—are rich in healthy fats, which can help to clear the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids help to increase the “good” cholesterol while reducing triglyceride levels, decreasing blood vessel inflammation and the formation of blood clots in the arteries, and can even lower blood pressure.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people eat fish at least twice per week to reduce plaque build-up. Baked and grilled fish are the most optimal for heart health.
Instead of reaching for the cookie jar, try a healthier alternative—nuts. Almonds are the best choice because they are high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber and protein. The magnesium in almonds also prevents plaque formation and lowers blood pressure. Walnuts are another good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which will reduce “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.
The AHA recommends three to five servings per week (one serving is equivalent to a handful). Nuts also make a great salad topper.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, an essential fatty acid that lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol. Rich in antioxidants, it is one of the healthiest oils to use in cooking or for dressings.
Use olive oil instead of butter and drizzle over salad or pasta. It is recommended to choose 100 percent organic virgin olive oil for maximum health benefits.
This summertime favorite is a great natural source of the amino acid L-citrulline, which boosts nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes the arteries to relax, decreases inflammation and can help lower blood pressure. Watermelon also helps to modify blood lipids and lowers belly fat accumulation. Less fat in the abdominal area lowers the risk of heart disease.
The main component of this spice is curcumin, which is a power anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a major cause of arteriosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Turmeric also reduces the damage to arterial walls, which can cause blood clots and plaque build up. Turmeric also contains vitamin B6, which helps to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine, which can cause plaque buildup and blood vessel damage in excess amounts.
Turmeric can be an ingredient in many dishes, both sweet and savory. One way to get your daily dose is by drinking a glass of warm turmeric milk daily. If you’ve never cooked with it before, now’s the time to get creative for your health!
This dark, leafy green is filled with potassium, folate and fiber, which helps lower blood pressure and prevents artery blockage. One serving per day helps lower homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart diseases such as atherosclerosis.
It doesn’t matter if you eat it raw or cooked, the benefits are the same. So try it in salads, smoothies and even on your omelet.
10. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain soluble fiber, which binds to the excess LDL cholesterol in your digestive tract and removes it from your body. Whole grains also contain magnesium, which dilates blood vessels and keeps your blood pressure at regular levels.
Foods to avoid
People should limit or avoid the following foods:
- added sugars in sodas, sweets, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and cakes
- processed foods that contain trans fats, high sugar, and high salt
- margarine, which may contain trans fats or hydrogenated fats
- red meat
- processed meats such as burgers, bacon, ham, and salami
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice
Can We Reverse Atherosclerosis?
If you have the gumption to make major changes to your lifestyle, you can, indeed, reverse coronary artery disease. This disease is the accumulation of cholesterol-laden plaque inside the arteries nourishing your heart, a process known as atherosclerosis.
Some of the best evidence that coronary artery disease is reversible comes from autopsies performed on people who lived through prolonged periods of starvation during World War II. Their coronary arteries showed little or no atherosclerosis. But as the economies of war-stricken countries recovered and diets “improved,” atherosclerosis returned. These findings are considered proof that extreme dietary changes can cause atherosclerosis to melt away.
The development of statins offered the possibility of reversing coronary artery disease more easily. But studies of intensive cholesterol lowering with statins have yielded mixed results — atherosclerosis might decrease in one area, but continue to grow in another. Yet even though statins don’t necessarily shrink plaque, they still reduce rates of heart attack and stroke. They do this by decreasing the amount of fluid fat inside plaque, by stabilizing the covering over it, and by calming inflammation. Dryer plaques with tougher, more fibrous caps are less likely to break open and cause heart attacks.
If you want to try cleaning out your arteries, take a look at the program recommended by Dr. Dean Ornish. These include his “reversal diet” (a mostly vegetarian diet that delivers no more than 10% of calories from fat and fewer than 5 milligrams of cholesterol a day), daily exercise, stress management, and group support. In a small trial that started out with 48 volunteers, cholesterol-clogged plaque shrank a small amount in the group following these changes compared with an increase in plaque in a control group.
If you decide to try one of these approaches, I would recommend doing it in addition to taking a statin and low-dose aspirin (with your doctor’s okay, of course). While your efforts may halt plaque formation and even shrink it, the plaque probably never disappears.