Atherosclerosis & Disease Prevention


Atherosclerosis is the build up of plaque within the walls of your arteries. You’ve probably heard someone say “hardening of the arteries” and that is exactly what atherosclerosis is. There are a couple reasons atherosclerosis is dangerous. The first is that when plaque begins to build up on the inside of the arterial walls there is less room for blood to flow through causing a traffic jam of red blood cells that cant get to where they need to go. Secondly when complications of atherosclerosis advance the plaque that has built up over many decades can rupture causing a thrombus (blood clot within the arterial wall) that will rapidly slow or stop the flow of blood. When blood flow is stopped tissues die and a result of that is a myocardial infarction. AKA: heart attack.


The primary cause of atherosclerosis relates to the diet and specifically a diet high in low density lipoproteins or LDL (the bad cholesterol) and low in high density lipoproteins or HDL (the good cholesterol). Think of LDL not as cholesterol itself but as cholesterol and triglyceride (fat) carriers/transporters. I like to think of LDL as the dump truck that drops off plaque on the arterial walls and HDL is similar to a garbage truck that goes around picking up this excess plaque and cycling it back to the liver for clearance. The more HDL circulating in the blood stream means less chances for plaque to accumulate. 


What foods have the bad LDL and the good HDL? 
LDL is found in high fat foods such as fast food, red meat, dairy, processed foods and foods high in trans fats. Foods high in HDL are nuts, olive oil, seafood such as salmon, mackerel or halibut, avocados and oatmeal. HDL levels can also increase through exercise!