Atherosclerosis – also known as – hardening of the arteries – is the process of oxidized cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin (a clotting substance in the blood), building up in the walls of medium and large arteries and blocking the flow of blood through out your body.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that researchers believe may start in childhood and slowly gets worse as we grow older. People usually start experiencing the symptoms of this dangerous disease in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.
The first signs of atherosclerosis start when the endothelium – a thin layer of cells that keep the artery smooth and allows blood to flow smoothly – becomes damaged. This allows plaque to accumulate in the artery wall.
The plaque clogs up the artery – disrupting the flow of blood through out the body. This can cause blood clots that can result in life-threatening conditions including: heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Arterial plaque usually accumulates in these arteries.
These arteries provide blood to the brain. When the blood flow is reduced due to plaque you can suffer a stroke. Symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Facial numbness
These arteries supply blood to the heart. When this blood flow is reduced due to plaque you can suffer a heart attack. Symptoms may include:
- Chest pain
- Extreme anxiety
- Feeling faint
PERIPHERAL ARTERY DISEASE
These are the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. Symptoms include:
- Leg pain in one or both legs usually in the calves, thighs and/or hips
- Weakness in legs
- Hair loss on legs or feet
- Toenails get thicker
- Impotence in males
FACTORS THAT CAN DAMAGE THE ENDOTHELIUM and TRIGGER ATHEROSCLEROSIS include:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- High blood sugar levels
Jiaogulan gypenosides have been clinically proven to increase the powerful antioxidant SOD higher than any pharmaceutical or nutritional. SOD has been clinically shown to remove plaque from arteries. Clinical studies show Grape seed extract can significantly reduce the formation of arterial plaque.
Inflammation (swelling) is your body’s natural reaction to an injury. Inflammation can happen on the skin, within the body and even inside your arteries. Scientists now are learning that inflammation may be involved in many of the diseases that come with aging including: diabetes, arthritis and coronary artery disease.
For many years doctors have thought that the main cause of a heart attack or stroke was the build-up of fatty plaque within the arteries leading to the heart or brain. Over time, the buildup of plaque would narrow the arteries so much that the arteries would either close off or become clogged by a blood clot (similar to a clogged drain).
The lack of oxygen-rich blood to the heart or brain would lead to either a heart attack or a stroke. But statistics show that these types of blockages cause only about 3 out of 10 heart attacks.
Recent research has now found that many people who have heart attacks do not have arteries severely narrowed by plaque. In fact, vulnerable plaque may be buried inside the artery wall and not bulge out and block the blood flow through the artery. This finding made researchers begin to look at how inflammation could lead to a heart attack.
They found that inflammation could lead to the development of “soft” or vulnerable plaque. They also found that vulnerable plaque was more than just cellular debris that clogs arteries – it was filled with different cell types that help with blood clotting.
Researchers believe that vulnerable plaque is formed in the following way:
- Fat droplets are absorbed by the artery, which causes the release of cytokines (a kind of protein) that lead to inflammation.
- The cytokines make the artery wall sticky, which attracts immune system cells called monocytes.
- Monocytes squeeze into the artery wall. Once inside, they turn into cells called macrophages and begin to soak up the fat droplets.
- The fat filled cells form a plaque with a thin covering.
When inflammation is combined with other stresses – such as high blood pressure – it can cause the thin covering over the plaque to crack and bleed, spilling the contents of the vulnerable plaque into the bloodstream. The sticky cytokines on the artery wall capture blood cells (mainly platelets) that rush to the site of the injury. When these cells clump together, they can form a clot large enough to block the artery.
People with this kind of plaque may not feel any symptoms in its early stages and it may not be detected by standard testing. Doctors have found that by measuring the level of a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP) – they may predict a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke. CRP is a marker that measures inflammation activity in the body.
Two large studies have shown that the higher the CRP levels in the blood – the greater the risk for heart attack. Not all vulnerable plaque ruptures. Researchers have found that the warmer the plaque is, the more likely that the plaque will rupture. Scientists have also found that vulnerable plaque has a low ph (is more acidic), and that acidic plaques are more likely to rupture.
There are two types of CRP tests – hsCRP (high sensitivity) and regular CRP. The hsCRP test is used to determine inflammation in your blood vessels (arteries), while the regular CRP test is used for individuals with autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
Less than 1.0 mg per liter of blood means your risk for heart disease is low, 1.0 – 3.0 means your risk is average and above 3.0 your risk for heart disease is high. Additionally, Jiaogulan gypenosides and have been shown to lower inflammation in your body through multiple mechanisms including lowering: IL-6, TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor) and oxidative stress.