Healthy Eating - How to Prevent Atherosclerosis and Maintain Great Cardiovascular Health
Interview with Yuri Elkaim
Q: What is atherosclerosis?
A: Atherosclerosis is the build up of plaque in the body’s arteries, leading to a loss elasticity and hardening of the arteries. This plaque build-up results in a reduction in blood flow to vital organs including the heart and brain.
Q: How does this plaque build-up occur?
A: It is mainly caused by damage/trauma to the arteries from any of several sources including free radical damage, smoking, trans-fats, refined sugar, and chlorinated water, among others. To repair the “wounded” area caused by this trauma, the body signals an inflammatory response causing phospholipids, fibrin (and other clotting factors), and cholesterol to build-up over the damaged area. This is how the plaque is formed.
Q: So the real culprit in atherosclerosis is the damage caused by free radicals and other substances you mentioned?
A: Exactly. Cholesterol and plaque build-up is simply the body’s natural defense mechanism to repair what’s been damaged. If we remove the damage, this plaque build up (or scar formation) doesn’t occur. Think about it this way – if you don’t cut your finger does a scab form? Obviously not!
Q: What are some early warning signs of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease?
A: When it comes to cardiovascular disease very often the first symptom is a heart attack! However, there are several early warning signs that can identify possible cardiovascular issues. For instance, angina (chest pain on exertion), cold hands and feet, “falling asleep” of legs and arms, and urinating more than twice during the night are all warning signs of potential cardiovascular and heart problems.
Q: So what can we do nutritionally to stop and/or reverse arterial plaque formation and the development of cardiovascular disease?
A: That’s a great question. Nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is absolutely critical to the health and longevity of the heart and cardiovascular system.
Here are a few healthy nutrition guidelines to keep your ticker ticking:
1. Do not smoke since toxic components in cigarettes cause damage to the arterial walls!
2. Reduce your exposure to free radicals and load up on flavonoids and antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E, and zinc) which can easily be attained by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach, etc…) and colourful fruits and vegetables (citrus fruit, berries, peppers, carrots, etc…)
3. Reduce your intake of saturated fats (animal fats) and increase your intake of monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
4. Avoid chlorinated water for chlorine becomes carcinogenic inside the body and further compromises the integrity of the arterial walls.
5. Exercise at a moderate intensity at least 30 minutes per day, 3 times per week.
© 2007 Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
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