Atherosclerosis - Prevention
Prevention of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a serious health condition with implication on most of the organs in the body. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a disease where fat is collected on arterial walls. This process is normal and occurs naturally to a certain extent, as the amount of fat in the blood vessels increases with age. Atherosclerosis is a condition causing a number of diseases responsible for about half the total number of deaths in developed countries.
Manifestations of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is primarily the collection of cholesterol on arterial walls. Symptoms of atherosclerosis arise when the affected artery narrows to such an extent, that it is no longer able to ensure adequate blood supply to the organ. In this case, infarction can occur (lack of blood in a section of tissue or organ). This is manifested by pain in the affected organ. In the event that the arteries are only partially narrowed, pain ensues only during increased exertion. If the artery is completely blocked, the affected organ is no longer able to function properly.
Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis
There are a number of risk factors for atherosclerosis. Some cannot be influenced or controlled, and others can be controlled with lifestyle choices. The most significant risk factors include:
- High lipid levels in the blood
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Age and sex
- Congenital predisposition
- High blood pressure
Prevention of Atherosclerosis
Fighting against risk factors is the most important method of prevention of atherosclerosis. This includes healthy eating habits, sufficient physical activity, abstinence from smoking and alcohol, and avoidance of stress.
Healthy Eating Habits
Healthy eating habits in the prevention of atherosclerosis, primarily includes a balanced diet. Smaller portions, several times per day are recommended. Breakfast plays an important role as it starts up the metabolism for the day. Regular meals during the day subsequently keep the metabolism running and help it use energy more efficiently. Infrequent and large doses of food force the metabolism to constantly change its intensity. Energy use is therefore inefficient and excess energy is stored as fat. A balanced diet is equally important. A unilateral diet, as well as completely cutting out a food group, such as meat, is not beneficial. It is essential that an individual's diet includes sufficient amounts of vegetables. Fruits are not equivalent, as they contain more sugar. Of course drinking plenty of water is very important as well.
The aforementioned eating habits would be almost useless without adequate physical activity. It is the cornerstone in preventing atherosclerosis. It is said that the minimum recommended amount is at least a half an hour of walking per day. Initially, just half an hour, 3x a week is enough, with a gradual increase per week. Following these general rules contribute significantly to the prevention of obesity.
Age and Sex
Age and sex are factors that cannot be controlled in the prevention of atherosclerosis. But is it important to keep in mind that with an increase in age, lipid levels in the blood increase, as well as the collection of cholesterol in blood vessels. Middle aged men are more at risk for atherosclerosis due to the protective nature of the female sex hormone, estrogen, in middle aged women. During menopause, the level of this hormone decreases and women because just as at risk as men.
Obesity and High Blood Pressure
The problem with obesity is not only the high amounts of fat. Among other things, it is associated with the development of diabetes and high blood pressure. High blood pressure promotes atherosclerosis because it facilitates fat collection in the blood vessels.
The problems of smoking are not only related to atherosclerosis. Substances inside cigarette smoke contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as lung, kidney and pancreatic cancer. It contributes to atherosclerosis by supporting the formation of free radicals in the body. These then, among other things, react with fat particles in the blood and change their structure. As a result of this change, it is easier for the fat to collect on arterial walls.
The impact of alcohol on the development of atherosclerosis is indirect, i.e. through high blood pressure. Alcohol however, increases blood pressure at higher doses or with prolonged use, as it stimulates a specific part of the nervous system that increases the tension in the arterial walls and thus increases blood pressure.