Atherosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerosis, is a condition where there’s a plaque buildup in your arteries causing the arteries to narrow and harden. The hardening of your arteries leads to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the world.
The arteries are essential in transporting oxygenated blood and nutrients to the heart and other body parts. When the arteries fail to function properly, the heart and other body parts can be deprived of blood and oxygen. Plaque can also break off and cause a blood clot, which can lead to stroke when the clot occurs within the blood vessel of the brain.
The thing is, not all people are aware that they’re in danger of stroke or heart disease. The realization can only become crystal clear when they’re already in the emergency room. Hence, it’s important to know the factors that increase your chance of developing atherosclerosis. Some of the major risk factors are the following:
1. High levels of cholesterol
High cholesterol levels can clog your arteries and block proper blood circulation to the heart and throughout the body.
2. Unhealthy diet
A diet that is often filled with unhealthy foods can endanger proper blood circulation. Unhealthy foods that you should eat sparingly include sweetened foods and beverages, salty foods, and trans fats foods.
Aging can be a risk factor because as you age, your heart puts more effort to pump and receive blood. The arteries can weaken and become less flexible as well.
You’re more at risk to develop atherosclerosis if it runs in your family.
5. Lack of physical exercise
People who move their bodies less such as those working long hours in the office or watching TV for hours are more at risk to develop atherosclerosis. The heart and circulatory system benefit greatly from regular exercise. Without one, blood flow wouldn’t occur much more efficiently.
6. High blood pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of atherosclerosis because the pressure can add force to your artery walls. Once these walls are damaged, they’re more susceptible to narrowing and plaque buildup.
7. Cigarette smoking
Long term use of nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes can damage your endothelium, the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels, which can set the stage for plaque buildup.
Whether type 1 or type 2, diabetes induces vascular dysfunction, which doubles your risk for atherosclerosis.
Having excess weight can increase your risk of atherosclerosis. This is because too many fats can affect the proper functioning of the lining of your arteries. Excess fats can also increase your risk of blood clots that’s likely to lead to heart disease or stroke.
Though inflammation is helpful for the body, it can be harmful when it’s triggered by damaged artery walls. The plaque buildup is likely to follow.
11. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing suddenly stops and resumes while sleeping. This condition can increase your chances of developing atherosclerosis.
12. High levels of stress
Studies confirmed that there’s a strong link between high levels of stress and heart attack.
Too much alcohol in the body is not good for the heart. It can have the potential of damaging heart muscles and causing premature aging of the artery walls.
Ways to Stave Off Atherosclerosis
Though atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease, there’s no need to worry if you’re diagnosed with it. It can be improved and even prevented. In the meantime, you should take the necessary steps to keep atherosclerosis at bay.
Don’t wait for atherosclerosis to take its toll on you while you’re still young and your body healthy. Taking definite steps to prevent the risk of developing atherosclerosis is the best gift you could give yourself as you advance your way towards aging. The following tips are your best guides.
Keep your blood sugar levels in check
Since blood sugar is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar is ideal. Stay away from sugary foods and other foods that can trigger your insulin levels to spike.
Avoid things that trigger inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injuries. But chronic inflammation isn’t healthy. You need to avoid inflammation in any way you can. Some of the things you can do are getting enough sleep and consuming anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, turmeric, peppers, tomatoes, and other red fruits and veggies.
Keep your blood pressure healthy
Healthy blood pressure doesn’t put a strain on your heart and circulatory system in general. De-stressing yourself regularly, watching your weight, reducing sodium intake, cutting back on caffeine, and following a healthy diet are the best strategies to have healthy blood pressure.
Limit oxidative stress
Oxidative stress can contribute to heart disease as well. This happens when there’s an imbalance between the free radicals and antioxidants in the body. You can prevent oxidative stress by eating healthy, reducing or eliminating processed foods from your diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals from the environment.
Avoid depleting yourself of essential nutrients and vitamins
A deficiency in either essential nutrients or vitamins in the body can affect your body’s normal function that is likely to lead to diseases like that of the heart. Whenever you have issues in these aspects, settle them as quickly as possible to avoid complications that may cause damage to your heart or even lead to death.
Avoid exposure to metal and other toxicity
As we have stated above, exposure to pollutants, harsh chemicals, and other toxic substances can lead to oxidative stress and heart problems. You can avoid these toxins by creating a healthy and safe environment at home, dusting and cleaning your home often, filtering your tap water, and avoiding products that have artificial fragrances.
Quitting smoking is never easy, especially if smoking is a habit you’ve developed over the years. Quitting abruptly is not a healthy choice either. You can start by identifying your triggers, whether they’re emotional or situational. From there, you can ask for support from family and friends to help you through the process or seek professional help to deal with withdrawal symptoms.
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol is good for the heart when it’s consumed in moderation. But when heavy drinking becomes a vice, your heart will suffer in the long run. If alcohol is part of your daily routine, an adequate amount will help you live longer.
When it comes to your health, exercise offers a variety of benefits. Since we’re talking about heart health, exercise helps improve proper circulation, which is most beneficial for the heart. A regular walking session ten to thirty minutes a day is all you need to keep your heart happy.
Eat healthy foods
Proper nutrition is the secret to prevent diseases and increase longevity. This means you need to eat more whole foods, like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Eating healthy fats and avoiding bad fats are important too.