Fighting Atherosclerosis with Good Nutrition

Imagine hundreds of cars zooming down an eight-lane highway. One lane disappears, and then another, until the same cars crawl bumper-to-bumper along a one-lane country ride. That’s sort of what happens when you have atherosclerosis. Your highways for your blood, harden and narrow, and the same amount blood has to make it’s way through a much tighter space. This traffic jam in your arteries leads to all sorts of trouble, including heart attack and stroke.

Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol, fat and other substances in your blood build up in the walls of your arteries. The process can begin when you’re a child, but it may not become a problem until you’re in your 50′s or 60′s. As this muck gathers in your arteries, it forms plaque. Plaque can clog or completely block arteries, cutting off blood flow to your heart or brain. That’s when you risk having a heart attack or stroke.

Too much cholesterol and triglycerides-types of fat- in the blood, high blood pressure, and smoking cause the most damage to your arteries. Other risk factors include diabetes, a family history of the condition, stress, obesity, and an  in-active lifestyle. Men, in general, are at greater risk, as are people who have a “barrel” body shape – with the fat gathering at the belly rather than the hips and thighs.

You can fight atherosclerosis by making good food choices. Cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol from meat and whole-milk dairy products, and look for the following foods than can lower cholesterol, bring down blood pressure, and keep your blood flowing smoothly.

Here are some nutritional blockbusters than can help fight athersclerosis:

Fish: Reel in big, fat fish and wriggle off the hook of atherosclerosis. Omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated kinds found in fatty fish like tuna, mackeral, and salmon, protect your arteries from damage.

First, Omega-3 helps to cancel out triglyerides, the fats that build up on your artery walls. It also assists in stopping your blood’s platelets from clumping together. That way, your blood remains smooth instead of sticky. Sticky blood can clot and then block blood flow. Lastly, some tests show omega-3 might lower blood pressure. No wonder so many studies show that eating certain types of fish can reduce your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two fish meals or more per week.

You can find a form of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid in walnuts, which lower cholesterol. Other sources of omega-3 include flaxseed, wheat germ, and some green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and arugula.

Garlic: Anything fish can do garlic can also do. The sulfur compounds in this amazing herb not only lower cholesterol and triglycerides, but they also go after only the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and leave the HDL or “good” cholesterol alone. Garlic can also lower blood pressure so your arteries don’t take as much of a pounding.Thanks to a substance called ajoene, garlic keeps your blood from clumping and clotting. One study showed garlic helps your aorta, the body’s main artery, remain elastic as you age. Experts recommend getting 4 grams of garlic – about one clove – into your diet each day.

Fiber: During the course of a day, you should eat about 25 to 35 grams of fiber. If you do, you’ll boost your general health and give athersclerosis quite a battle. Certain types of soluble fiber, found in oats, barley, apples and other fruits, help to shrink your cholesterol levels. It works by slowing down your food as it passes through your stomach and small intestine, so your good cholesterol has more time to go to your liver and out of your body. Eating more than 25 grams of fiber every day might also cut your risk of developing high blood pressure by 25%. Fiber comes with an added bonus – it fills you up. After a fiber rich meal, you feel full, so you are less apt to overeat and put on unwanted pounds. Because being overweight increases your risk of atherosclerosis and other heart problems, eating fiber could be part of an effective strategy to guard your arteries. You’ll find fiber in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals.

Antioxidants: An unarmed intruder poses less of a threat than one with a weapon. By stopping free radicals from oxidizing LDL cholesterol, antioxidants remove much of the danger.Once oxidized, LDL cholesterol makes a beeline to your artery walls much faster. In fact, some scientists believe LDL cholesterol only harms you once it has been oxidized.

Vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene are antioxidants. Peppers, oranges, strawberrys, cantaloupe and broccoli give you vitamin C, while carrots, sweet potatoes,spinach, mangoes and collard greens are full of beta carotene. Sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

While you munch on those fruits and vegetables, you’ll get the added benefit of antioxidant substances called favonoids. Resveratrol in grapes, anthocyanins in cranberry juice, and quercetin in onions, apples, and tea are some of the flavenoids that help your heart and arteries.

Monounsaturated fat: To keep your running smoothly, maybe you need an oil change. Olive oil, the main source of fat in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, has mostly monosaturated fat. This type of fat slashes the “bad” cholesterol without harming the “good” cholesterol. It also prevents clotting, giving your arteries even more protection. Like fiber, monosaturated fat also fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat.

Think about switching from soybean or corn oil to olive oil. After all, the greeks – even while enjoying a rather high-fat diet – rarely develops atherosclerosis.

Besides olive oil, sources of monosaturated fat include avocados, nuts and canola oil.

Ginger: Make your dinner a little bit tastier and your arteries a little bit healthier with this ancient spice. Ginger contains phytochemicals called gingerol and shogaol, which give it its antoxidant power.

Animal studies show ginger not only lowers LDL cholesterol and tryclicerides, it also prevents LDL oxidation. On top  of that, ginger also keeps your blood from clotting by reducing the stickiness of your platelets.


One Response

  1. Thanks for such good nutritional info. for reducing cholesterol and getting healthier over all!

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