High cholesterol is one of the biggest health problems of today. It affects millions of people regardless of age or gender, and can contribute towards serious cardiovascular problems.
The arteries are blood vessels that are responsible for transporting blood rich with oxygen from the heart to other body parts. Normal arteries are strong and elastic, but they can be affected by accumulation of plaque in the arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis and is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease around the world.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the USA, taking more than half a million lives every year. The condition is known as a silent killer due to the lack of symptoms in the beginning. The symptoms of the condition depend on the type of arteries affected.
If your coronary arteries are clogged, the condition is known as coronary heart disease. In this case, plaque blocks the proper arterial blood flow and the heart gets insufficient amounts of blood, resulting in chest pain or angina. The chest pain can travel to the jaw, arms, neck, shoulders or back, and may resemble indigestion. Angina may be triggered by emotional stress as well, and may be accompanied by arrhythmia or shortness of breath.
Carotid artery disease occurs when the brain arteries are clogged. This is a serious problem which may lead to a stroke. The symptoms of the disease include weakness, headaches, loss of consciousness, trouble speaking, blurred vision, dizziness and loss of focus.
If the arteries in your kidneys are blocked, it can lead towards kidney disease and loss of proper kidney function. In the beginning, there may be no symptoms at all, but as the disease progresses, it can cause loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, numbness and itchiness in the limbs.
Peripheral artery disease is caused by blocked arm, leg or pelvic arteries which may cause numbness and pain in the limbs.
What makes the arteries clogged?
Atherosclerosis is a term which describes hardened and thickened arteries. There’s a thin layer of endothelial cells that keeps the arteries smooth and toned and allows proper blood flow as well. However, factors such as increased homocysteine levels, free radicals and toxins can damage these cells and the integrity of the arteries, resulting in accumulation of plaque.
Plaque represents deposits of fat, calcium, metals, waste material and LDL cholesterol particles which can get stuck in the arteries and cause atherosclerosis. Other atherosclerosis factors include smoking, alcohol abuse, being overweight, genetics, etc. Lack of vitamin C and oxidative stress can also be the culprit, as can other nutritional deficiencies and a diet high in sugar or starch.
The usual treatment for high cholesterol levels includes taking statins or other type of cholesterol-lowering drugs, but the problem can also be treated by consuming a diet that contains the following foods:
Turmeric is a popular spice that has been used in Ayurveda medicine for centuries. The active compound in the spice is curcumin, a polyphenol that can prevent cardiovascular diseases and reduce the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. According to a 2011 study, turmeric can reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis, while another study showed that it can also prevent arterial damage.
Ginger is another healthy spice that can clean your arteries naturally. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound and contains shogaols and gingerols, two cardioprotective compounds which can reduce the amount of total cholesterol. One study from the Journal of Nutrition showed that ginger can reduce atherosclerotic lesions and the total cholesterol and triglyceride content in the blood.
Garlic is definitely among the top of the list of nature’s superfoods. Several studies have shown that garlic can prevent heart disease, reduce blood pressure and prevent atherosclerosis, while also preventing the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. According to a 1997 study, garlic can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by 50% and prevent heart attack and stroke.
Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin, a compound which can reduce LDL cholesterol and cut down the risk of heart attack and stroke. Capsaicin has also been found to prevent pulmonary and vascular complications caused by HAART (highly-active antiretroviral therapy) drugs.
Drinking lemon water in the morning is the best way to improve your overall health. Lemon can reduce your cholesterol levels and prevent oxidative damage in the body, and the high content of vitamin C can reinforce the arteries and reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Cinnamon is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that can reduce a number of risk factors associated with heart disease and atherosclerosis. According to a study from 2003, taking 1, 3 or 6 gr. of cinnamon powder a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol, glucose and total cholesterol in patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. The study examined 60 patients for 40 days, and discovered that cinnamon significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Flaxseeds are great for our heart health – they are rich in essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids as well as alpha-linoleic acid, a compound which can reduce inflammation and blood pressure. According to one animal study, ground flaxseeds can reduce the risk of aortic atherosclerosis by nearly 50% in rabbits. According to scientists, you don’t need much flaxseeds in order to benefit from them – a modest supplementation of ground flaxseeds will provide your body with the required amount of omega-3s.
Kimchi is a type of Korean fermented cabbage and hot pepper combination that can easily slow down atherosclerosis. According to one study, kimchi contains an active compound known as 3-94-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenyl which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and degrade toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A.
Sesame seeds are one of the best natural ingredients against blocked arteries. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests they can prevent the progression of the condition thanks to the fatty acid content. These compounds can reduce inflammation and cholesterol and prevent the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants and punicic acid that can prevent the accumulation of plaque, unclog arteries and prevent atherosclerosis. Pomegranate juice also contains selenium and magnesium, with a study confirming that drinking 240 ml. of it for 18 months can slow down the progression of carotid artery disease.
Besides these foods, you should also add fenugreek seeds, coconut oil, avocado, broccoli and asparagus in your diet in order to prevent atherosclerosis. Dietary supplements are required as well, so make sure to get a multivitamin and mineral supplement which includes vitamin B6 and B12, folic acid, choline, vitamin C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, grape seed extract and more.
The other essential nutrients against atherosclerosis are L-arginine, coenzyme Q10, vitamin B3 and vitamin D. Of course, eating a healthy diet won’t work on its own – you need to stay active as well and exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.