Atherosclerosis and Your Diet

AtherosclerosisAtherosclerosis is a progressive condition caused by the hardening of the arteries. This condition is most common in older patients, who have stiffened blood vessels that can become clogged with fatty plaque. This condition is considered a natural part of aging and may progress for many years without any noticeable symptoms. However, the severity of this condition can be exacerbated by circulatory disorders that can cause reduced blood flow in the extremities, as well as inadequate oxygen to the heart, which can cause heart disease and stroke. Interestingly, atherosclerosis is not common in underdeveloped parts of the world. It is very common in industrialized Western societies, like the United States. This may have to do with western diets and a drastic difference in daily physical exertion. Nutrition may be a large component to the progression of this disease.

Most men in the United States have some degree of atherosclerosis by the time they reach their late forties. Women are not as likely to have signs of atherosclerosis until they are in their sixties. This delay may be due to the protective effects of estrogen in a woman's body during the reproductive years. Diet can be a major contributor to atherosclerosis. Cholesterol is a component of atherosclerosis plaque. It has been observed that high levels of blood cholesterol are associated with atherosclerosis. By lowering the levels of blood cholesterol in the body the progression of atherosclerosis can be slowed or even reversed. Dietary cholesterol should be limited to 300mg a day. As much as possible, saturated fats should be eliminated from the diet and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids should be eaten regularly. Other foods that have been found effective at lowering cholesterol levels include, oat bran pectin, guar and psyllium, which are all excellent sources of soluble fiber. Eating foods high in antioxidants, like beta carotene and vitamins C and E may help to prevent against atherosclerosis by preventing LDL cholesterol from clogging arteries. A combination of diet and a health lifestyle can help to prevent atherosclerosis from causing severe health problems. Exercise, refraining from smoking, and maintaining an ideal weight are effective at good for the body. Effective stress management is also helpful at preventing high blood pressure. Incorporating all of these methods can keep atherosclerosis from causing serious health complications.