In one word, Atherosclerosis. While some people believe eating a fatty diet or cutting out fat or meat will help reduce their chances of a heart attack or stroke by controlling their cholesterol. The surprise that most people don’t know is that your body can create its own cholesterol whether you consume this or not. Let injured arterial walls be the magic phrase of this episode. If you remember anything, let it be that.

Cholesterol begins to accumulate at the site of a vascular injury. It will take place regardless of whether serum cholesterol levels are high or not because cholesterol, in this regard, is an antioxidant carrier. It is also a patch material the body uses to be able to repair the damaged tissue. Healthy, normal cholesterol travels through the bloodstream all of the time and it is not a problem. It is when cholesterol becomes oxidized that it starts to be identified by the immune system (Bartholomey, 2013)

Ok so, what is atherosclerosis? It’s a degenerative disease of the arteries (Parker, 2013). It is the gradual build up of a combination of cholesterol, fatty substances, fibrin, calcium and cellular waste which is called plaque inside the arteries. This gradually narrows (AHA, 2016). Limiting the amount of oxygenated blood, because arteries carry oxygen to different areas of the body, they are thicker and can endure more pressure. Veins are thinner and more flexible than arteries and it carries blood that is depleted of oxygen (Parker, 2013).

When we think about injury, we think of band aids the temporarily hold it together, so where your arteries are damaged.

  • blood clot- to keep the blood from leaking into areas where it is not supposed to be
  • plaque – to temporarily mend your vessel tissue due to its brittleness and repair any damage

There is a compromise that takes place in the endothelium. Almost all tissues depend on a blood supply, and the blood supply depends on endothelial cells, which form the linings around the blood vessels, but not only your blood vessels, it forms a single layer of cells lining various organs and cavities of the body, especially the blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessel.  Now your endothelium is no longer able to produce its regulating substances and become impaired. This makes the vessels constrict and leads to elevated blood pressures as well as blood clots. These are all consequences that promote vascular disease and atherosclerotic plaque to build up in the arteries (Bartholomey 2013).

Typically, there is 80% to 90% blockage before chest pain or a heart attack is experienced, which are often the first signs of atherosclerosis. This can take up to 10 years to get to this point so it is a slow building process (Bartholomey 2013).

Until recently, it wasn’t really widely recognized that women experience different heart attack symptoms. For example, women experience nausea, dizziness and back pain rather than the more classic chest pains and tingling in the left arm that men typically experience. These are vague, but definitely early warning signs. They tend to be easily brushed off or mistaken for gastrointestinal, hormonal or some kind of psychiatric disturbance. Oftentimes, a woman is misdiagnosed or mistreated as a consequence.

About 85% of the heart attacks and strokes that are experienced are actually caused by clots that form when blood seeps through the plaque that has been ruptured. That is the reason why stress, hypertension and very high levels of damaging molecules like the oxidized cholesterol, homocysteine, glucose, cholesterol or other infectious agents are harmful. Because they cause the inflammatory process and the creation of additional scar tissue.

This is why balancing the mind to be able to be in control of your thoughts helps in reducing stress, high blood pressure as well as inflammation. Eating foods high in vitamins, minerals and proteins such as collagen and amino acids are important to give your endothelial cells the proper substance to maintain its tissue lining so that it is able to recover instead of being injured and requiring plaque to patch it up. and even when it does, it will be for temporary use instead of long-term use because the medication and or surgery is not addressing the real reason as to why this is happening. It addresses the build up of plaque and the thinning of blood to prevent blood clots not the healing of the injured or damaged vessels.

American Heart Association (2016) What is Atherosclerosis Retrieved From<

Parker, S. (2013) The Human Body New your, NY: Darling Kindersley

Bartholomy, P. (2013) Unit 104, lecture 9: Atherosclerosis [Audio Material Notes] Retrieved from