Atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis are used interchangeably. Arteriosclerosis is a hardening of the artery walls. Atherosclerosis is narrowing of the arteries due to the build-up of plaque. Atherosclerosis is a subset of arteriosclerosis.
Blood flow is reduced when your arteries are narrowed. This can result in some serious cardiovascular problems. LDL (low-density lipoproteins) adhere to the artery wall. Serious problems that can occur with atherosclerosis are stroke and heart attack.
High levels of cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and genetics are common causes of atherosclerosis. Diabetics are at higher risk of developing atherosclerosis. Headaches, difficulty breathing, overall weakness and facial numbness are symptoms associated with atherosclerosis. However, as atherosclerosis develops one might expect more serious symptoms such as vomiting, extreme anxiety, chest pains, coughing, and fainting.
Other symptoms that people don’t associate with atherosclerosis are a loss of appetite, swelling of the extremities, difficulty concentrating, hair loss on arms and legs, erectile dysfunction, and numbness in the legs. Chronic kidney disease and peripheral artery disease are also common.
Typical treatments for atherosclerosis are lifestyle changes (weight management, exercise, and diet), medications and surgery. Doctors suggest that you avoid saturated fats because they increase LDL levels. A diet that includes unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, walnuts, oily fish, nuts, and seeds) is highly recommended.
However, LDL cholesterol is not the real problem. Cholesterol is required in nearly every cell in our bodies. The liver makes LDL and our bloodstream transports it to our cells. Oxidized LDL is the problem. Our immune system is usually strong enough to counter the continual attack of free radicals on cholesterol. But, sometimes, our immune system is overwhelmed by a myriad of problems (toxins, stress, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, disease, and lack of sleep are a few).
The other side of cholesterol is HDL (high-density lipoprotein). HDL removes the plaque of oxidized LDL cholesterol from the artery walls. HDL also inhibits the chronic inflammation that allows plaques to form. HDL needs the enzyme, PON-1) to work properly. PON-1 (paraoxonase-1) attaches itself to the surface of the HDL molecule and it is this enzyme that facilitates the plaque removal.
Dietary imbalance and aging are two causes of lower levels of PON-1. Combine low levels of PON-1 with increased plaque formation and you become a perfect target for a heart attack. Statin drugs used to treat cholesterol are less effective with low levels of PON-1. Pomegranate and resveratrol boost levels of PON-1.
Diets rich in pomegranates were studied in patients with severe plaque formation. Within one year, PON-1 levels increased 83%. Oxidized LDL plaques were reduced by 90%. Resveratrol and quercetin have been shown to increase the production of PON-1. Further information regarding PON-1 can be found in the May 2014 edition of Life Extension magazine.