The hardening of your arteries is nothing to glance over and it’s often a silent condition that only produces symptoms once your arteries are more than 70% blocked. Yikes! Unfortunately, it’s estimated that approximately half of the people between the ages of 45 and 84 have atherosclerosis (a type of arteriosclerosis) and they don’t even know it. The good news: while the damage can’t be reversed, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid further harm to your arteries and prevent the serious risks associated with arteriosclerosis.
What is Arteriosclerosis?
In the simplest terms, arteriosclerosis is the hardening of your arteries. It is a type of vascular disease that occurs when there is a gradual accumulation of plaque in the inner walls of your arteries which causes them to thicken and become narrower, making it difficult for blood to flow through them. As a result, many of the body’s organs and tissues that rely on this blood supply become affected. Additionally, the continuous pressure caused by the restricted blood flow can result in the plaque rupturing, which can ultimately lead to a blood clot.
Now, the effects and possible complications of arteriosclerosis don’t happen overnight. In fact, the stages can take many years to unravel and are:
- Stage One: The onset of atherosclerosis is triggered by damage to the endothelium, the slim layer of cells coating the intima, or the inner layer of your artery wall. This damage causes a chemical reaction that draws white blood cells to the affected region, resulting in inflammation within the artery. This damage can occur for many reasons, such as elevated LDL cholesterol levels and toxic substances from tobacco products.
- Stage Two: The first visible sign of atherosclerosis (a type of arteriosclerosis) is the appearance of a yellowish “fatty streak” or patch that forms where the endothelial damage has occurred. It’s made up of dead foam cells and overtime, they cause more harm to the endothelium.
- Stage Three: The accumulation of deceased foam cells and other debris eventually evolve into a more extensive plaque that forms a fibrous cap, preventing fragments of plaque from breaking off into the bloodstream. As the plaque grows, it progressively constricts the opening of the artery, decreasing the blood flow.
- Stage Four: During this phase, a blood clot forms within the artery due to plaque rupturing from the constant pressure of the restricted blood flow.
Possible Complications of Arteriosclerosis
The effects of arteriosclerosis highly depend on where the narrowing or blood clot is forming. For example, a blockage in the coronary artery directly affects your heart and can lead to a heart attack, whereas a blockage in the arteries leading to your kidneys can lead to chronic kidney disease.
- Aortic aneurysm: is an abnormal enlargement in the body’s largest blood vessel, the aorta.
- Carotid artery disease: occurs when there is narrowing in the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the head and aorta
- Coronary artery disease: occurs when there is a buildup of plaque inside a coronary artery.
- Peripheral artery disease: occurs when there the arteries in the legs, arms or pelvis become narrow or blocked.
Some examples of potential complications associated with arteriosclerosis include the diseases mentioned above, as well as:
- Heart attacks
- Mesenteric ischemia
- Renal artery stenosis
- Transient ischemic attack
What are the Symptoms of Arteriosclerosis:
Unfortunately, the narrowing of your arteries is typically a silent process with no apparent symptoms. As a result, many people don’t even know they are experiencing this problem until a medical emergency occurs, such as a stroke or a heart attack.
However, as the plaque continues to grow, leaving less room for blood to flow, you may start to experience some warning signs. This typically occurs when the arteries are at least 70% blocked and as mentioned previously, will highly depend on where the narrowing or blockage is occurring. For example, some possible symptoms based on the complication are:
- Coronary artery disease
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
- Chest pain
- Pain in back, shoulders, neck, belly or arms
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Experiencing heart palpitations
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mesenteric ischemia
- Pain in your stomach after eating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unintentional weight loss
- Peripheral artery disease
- Changes in skin tone
- Cold feet
- Frequent skin infections
- Sores on your toes or feet that don’t heal
- Renal artery stenosis
- High blood pressure (that doesn’t get better with medications)
- Changes in how often you urinate
- Dry, itchy or numb skin
- Feeling tired or drowsy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling dizzy
- Drooping on one of side of the face
- Feeling weak or a loss in muscle strength
- Severe headaches
- Slurry speech
- Difficulty forming works
- Vision loss in one eye
If you think you are experiencing these symptoms due to arteriosclerosis or may be having a heart attack or stroke, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Common Causes of Arteriosclerosis
We know that arteriosclerosis occurs in four stages, with damage to the endothelium being the first step. Some common causes that can result in harm to this thin layer of cells are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Inflammation, like from arthritis or lupus
- Metabolic syndrome
There are also some additional risk factors that may increase your chances of developing arteriosclerosis such as:
- Family history of cardiovascular disease
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
Natural Remedies for Treating Arteriosclerosis
While there’s no denying that arteriosclerosis can be a scary and serious health condition, there is some good news: there are several ways to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis or delay its progression. Something as simple as making a few positive lifestyle changes, properly managing any underlying conditions and cutting out any unhealthy habits can make a significant improvement. Even if you’re already in the progressive stages, there are treatments available to reduce the size of plaque in your arteries to reduce the risk of it rupturing and causing a blood clot. It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. However, these natural remedies and tips can get your treatment started in the meantime.
Taking a look at your lifestyle is a great place to start when trying to prevent or delay the progression of arteriosclerosis. Some things you’ll want to focus on right away are:
- Cut out the use of all tobacco products (smoking and vaping).
- Exercise daily (a minimum of 20 minutes).
- Start eating a diet that is heart-healthy, such as the Mediterranean diet.
- Eat foods that are low in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and sugar.
- Aim to achieve a weight that is healthy for you.
- Stop skipping your annual check-ups with your doctor.
- Manage stress, whether it’s through journaling, therapy, yoga or meditation.
Manage Underlying Health Conditions
Many underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause more damage to your arteries thus making you more susceptible to potential complications. As such, it’s absolutely imperative that you start properly managing any underlying health conditions you may have. This will highly depend on the issues you’re dealing with but some common suggestions are:
- Take your medications are required
- Focus on lowering blood pressure
- Monitor your blood pressure daily
- Focus on reducing cholesterol
- Manage your blood sugar levels
- Tackle risk factors associated with your underlying health conditions (eg: lose weight if you’re struggling with diabetes)
From dietary supplements to herbal remedies, essential oils and more, there are plenty of natural remedies for arteriosclerosis that you can try. Here are some of the most popular options:
- Fish oil: Fish oil is known to be an effective way to rebalance the cholesterol balance in the cardiovascular system, and can be a great way to prevent the dangerous buildup of plaque in the blood vessels. This is because fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly referred to as “good cholesterol” (HDL cholesterol) which is great for promoting heart health.
- Artichoke extract: this dietary supplement can be beneficial in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, as it increases the levels of “good” cholesterol while lowering the levels of “bad” cholesterol.
- B-3 Vitamin: Niacin supplements, a type of vitamin B-3, can increase “good” cholesterol levels by over 30% and lower triglycerides (a type of fat that contributes to heart disease risk).
- Hawthorn: the extract made from the leaves and berries of a hawthorn bush are known to be an efficient remedy for heart disease as the plant contains quercetin, a chemical that can reduce cholesterol levels.
- Honey: 1 tsp of honey in the morning on an empty stomach is believed to help people suffering from cardiovascular disorders, as it contains many therapeutic properties that promote heart health.
While the hardening of the arteries can’t be reversed, there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent or slow down the progression of arteriosclerosis. But don’t wait for your body to give you the signs of a potential problem, as they often only appear when a medical emergency is imminent. Instead, be pro-active now to avoid the risks altogether by making some healthy lifestyle choices, and following a balanced diet.