What Is Atherosclerosis?
New Thinking on Why Arteries Stiffen
Now, scientists are finding that cholesterol and even saturated fat may not be the villains they were once thought to be. New research shows that most forms of cholesterol may be “innocent bystanders” in the process of atherosclerosis. The real problem is the body’s own inflammatory, or immune, response to chronic (long-term) injury—and that injury may come from some unexpected sources. READ MORE
Plaques are the body’s mistaken attempt to heal the injured inner lining of your arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from your heart to your body’s tissues. The smooth lining of the arteries may be damaged by toxic substances carried through the bloodstream, like alcohol, nicotine, and trans fats. Your blood vessels can also be injured by high blood pressure or by certain diseases, like diabetes. And elevated blood levels of glucose (blood sugar) from a diet high in refined carbohydrates and starches can also damage your arteries and lead to atherosclerosis.
Stiff and Narrow
In response to ongoing injury, plaques continue to increase in size and number. The ever-growing plaques reduce the diameter of your arteries, decreasing blood flow and increasing the amount of pressure your blood exerts against the arterial wall. To defend against the higher blood pressure, the arteries reinforce their walls, making them thicker and stiffer. Unfortunately, this has the effect of making it even more difficult for blood to get through the arteries, leading to high blood pressure. The buildup of plaques and the stiffening of the vessels is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. LESS