* Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis caused by the buildup of fatty deposits, fibrin, calcium and cellular waste, collectively known as plaque, over damaged cells on the inside of artery walls. The buildup causes the arteries to become less flexible, thickened or hardened, thus the condition may also be known as hardening of the arteries.
* As atherosclerosis progresses, it reduces the size of arteries causing high blood pressure (hypertension).
* If atherosclerosis in coronary arteries (coronary artery disease) is left untreated, the affected artery eventually becomes blocked, causing angina (pain in the chest), heart attack and death.
* If atherosclerosis in arteries to the brain is left untreated, the artery will also eventually become blocked, causing a stroke and or death.
* Atherosclerosis in arteries to the kidney can lead to renal failure, and (peripheral) atherosclerosis in arteries to the limbs can lead to limb damage or amputation.
* Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes / contributors to deaths in the US.
* There are a range of contributing factors in atherosclerosis including age, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, a diet that is high in animal fats and calories, family history, diabetes, lack of exercise or fitness, and smoking.
* Symptoms for peripheral atherosclerosis may include impotence, aching muscles, fatigue, cramp like pains, and numb or weak feelings in the affected limbs.
* Quit Smoking – smoking is one of the major risk factors in developing atherosclerosis. Cigarette smoke contains free radicals that oxidize and increase the number of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), this makes LDLs or ‘bad cholesterol’ more likely to be deposited on the walls of arteries. Smoking depletes the body of its antioxidant defenses, and also of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or ‘good cholesterol’. Smoking increases the blood’s tendency to clot. Acupuncture and nicotine patches have been found to be somewhat effective, however strong will power and going ‘cold turkey’ is the most successful method. Above all, smokers need to want to quit. See smoking for information on how to quit.
* Avoid Passive Cigarette Smoking – secondhand smoke is also linked to heart disease and death.
* Stress Management – anxiety, stress and anger are other significant risk factors in atherosclerosis and heart disease. Gentle exercise such as yoga, and tai chi are known to reduce stress levels, and meditation, acupressure, shiatsu, and massage are known to reduce anxiety levels. It is important to incorporate stress and anxiety relieving programs into your every day lifestyle in order for it to be of benefit in regressing or preventing atherosclerosis. Please consult your medical practitioner before undertaking massage, acupressure and shiatsu programs, as these therapies are not always appropriate for people with heart conditions.
* Address Obesity Problems – obesity puts unnecessary strain on the body and heart, and causes changes in blood lipoprotein levels that increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
* Dietary changes – are an important aspect in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis.
– Consider a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diets include smaller intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol. The Lifestyle Heart Trial study showed a significant regression of advanced coronary artery disease after one year in eighty-two percent of people who adopted a vegetarian diet.1
– Eat high fiber, low cholesterol foods.
– Eat foods high in vitamin E such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, legumes, and peas, this improves circulation and has antioxidant effects.
– Avoid foods such as junk food, caffeine products, candy, chocolate, alcohol, salty or fried foods, saturated fats, animal proteins and processed foods including foods containing white flour and sugar.
* Atherosclerosis may be successfully treated with a comprehensive range of approaches including diet and lifestyle changes, acupuncture (for smoking), yoga (exercise), reflexology (for angina pain) and meditation (stress management).
* Note that severe atherosclerosis may require a conventional medicine approach such as surgery or drug therapy. However, in such cases, the best outcome is achieved when natural therapies are used in conjunction with conventional medicine, as atherosclerosis will continue to progress if contributing factors are not eliminated or reduced.
BETA CAROTENE – Anti-carcinogin, antioxidant and free radical scavenger. Food sources of betacarotene include yellow fruits and vegetables, alfalfa, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, capsicum, rose hip, kale and spirulina. 15,000 iu daily in divided doses may help to regress atherosclerosis.
VITAMIN C – A powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, it has been shown to lower LDLs (‘bad cholesterol’) levels, and supports HDLs (‘good cholesterol’). Vitamin C is also known to lower systolic blood pressure. Sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, citrus fruits, potatoes, berries, brussel sprouts, parsley, alfalfa, fenugreek, fennel seed, peppermint, dandelion greens, pineapple, broccoli and cabbage. 5,000 – 20,000 mg daily in divided doses may be of help with atherosclerosis, especially if taken with bioflavonoids. Do not use more than 5,000 mg daily if pregnant. Use esterified vitamin C if you use aspirin. Large doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea, may deplete the body of copper and affect the reliability of oral contraceptives.
VITAMIN E – An important antioxidant and a cofactor in many enzymes. Vitamin E may be of assistance with angina, cancer, blood clotting and cell damage. It reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, and increases the heart’s efficiency and the circulation of blood. Sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, dandelion, rose hip, whole grains, asparagus, peas, vegetable oils, peanuts, almonds, butter and walnuts. 200 – 800 iu daily in divided doses may be of assistance. Take according to label instructions if you suffer from diabetes, overactive thyroid, or are taking anticoagulant medication.
BIOFLAVONOIDS & RUTIN – Bioflavonoids are known to work synergistically with vitamin C to preserve the structure of capillaries. Bioflavonoids promote the uptake of vitamin C into the body, lower cholesterol and promote circulation. Sources include citrus pith, blackcurrants, prunes, grapes, cherries, apricots, grape seed extract, green tea and rose hip. Use according to label instructions.
SELENIUM – An important antioxidant that works synergistically with vitamin E. Selenium helps to prevent free radical formation and is known to help reduce cardiovascular disease. Dietary sources of selenium include milk, brazil nuts, garlic, parsley, peppermint, lemongrass, brown rice, kelp, garlic, wheat germ and whole grain products, broccoli, celery and cucumbers. Up to 200 mcg daily may be of assistance in preventing atherosclerosis.
GARLIC – Dilates blood vessel walls, thins the blood reducing the likelihood of blood clots, lowers cholesterol levels and assists in preventing heart attacks. Use according to label instructions. People taking anticoagulant drugs should take garlic under medical supervision.
GINKGO, MAIDENHAIR TREE – An antioxidant, improves circulation, assists in peripheral artery closures. Use according to label instructions for at least two weeks for maximum benefit.
HAWTHORN – Reduces blood pressure and angina attacks, increases blood flow to the heart, lowers cholesterol levels and prevents cholesterol from depositing on artery walls. Use according to label instructions. Note that excessive amounts can be dangerous as it may depress respiration and heart rate.