What is it?
Arteriosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body (arteries) become thick and stiff — sometimes restricting blood flow to the organs and tissues. Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic. But over time, the walls in the arteries can harden, a condition commonly called hardening of the arteries.
Plaques are composed of deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin.
Macrophages work as innate immune cells through phagocytosis and sterilization of foreign substances such as bacteria. Within the plaque, macrophages take up lipid deposit particles and transform into foam cells, forming early atherosclerotic lesions., and hindering the blood flow.
The formation of these plaques hardens the arteries, causing a loss of elasticity, which then translates into a loss of functionality.
In the Western world, arteriosclerosis represents a primary health problem, linked above all to the lifestyle of industrialized countries, but if not treated in time, it can represent the onset of pathologies such as stroke, heart attack and angina pectoris.
Arteriosclerosis is very dangerous because the plaques that form on the artery wall cause chronic inflammation. Over time, this condition leads to the rupture of the plaques, with the release of clots or thrombi, which still obstruct more arteries and therefore blood flow. If the obstruction of blood flow occurs in a coronary artery, it may cause a heart attack. . If the obstruction of blood flow occurs in a carotid artery, it may cause a stroke.
When the plaques grow in number and volume, they cause a luminal narrowing that obstruct blood flow to the heart. The following lack of oxygen can affect the lower limbs, heart and brain, causing problems such as tingling and paralysis of the lower limbs, a sense of mental confusion and continuous headaches, angina pectoris that is the presence of a strong sense of oppression in the chest following strong psychophysical stress.
Although a correct diet and lifestyle can help prevent arteriosclerosis, it is very common a pharmacological approach..
The drugs used are also those to lower cholesterol, or statins, as if the cholesterol levels in the blood are low, the likelihood of plaque formation is reduced.
Or, anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents are prescribed, designed to dissolve the clots that form in the arteries, following the rupture of the plaques. Among the main anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents we have warfarin, aspirin and cardiospirin.
A Mediterranean diet can help treat or prevent arteriosclerosis. The main recommendations to follow are:
- Use of extra virgin olive oil, due to its richness in mono-unsaturated fatty acids with a hypolipidic and anti-inflammatory action;
- Increase the consumption of vegetables, especially those rich in folic acid, a vitamin that lowers homocysteine levels in the blood, as high levels of the following metabolite in the blood also represent a risk factor for the development of atherosclerotic disease. Among the vegetables rich in folic acid we have spinach, broccoli, endive, chard, turnips, asparagus, artichokes, rocket, among the legumes peas, chickpeas and beans, among the fruit citrus fruits and dried fruit such as walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios.
- Limit your consumption of red meat to once a week, twice a week cuts of white meat such as rabbit, lamb, chicken and turkey, eggs and dairy products only once a week, never paired with red meat on the same day.
- Considerably increase the weekly frequency of consumption of fish, due to its richness in polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega 3 and omega 6 series, with respectively hypolipidic and antithrombotic action.
- Avoid excessive consumption of salt as it increases hypertension, imposing even more resistance to blood flow.
- Limit the consumption of alcohol and spirits, which are harmful to the cardiovascular system, in terms of increases in both triglycerides and hypertension.
- It would be desirable to consume half a glass of red wine every other day for people of normal weight or a maximum of two glasses per week for overweight or obese people.