Yesterday’s post was all about how atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) occurs, but today I want to talk about why it occurs.
The initial stages of atherosclerosis are due to cellular damage in the middle muscular layer of the arterial wall. This damage comes from something known asFree Radicalswhich are sort of like unstable molecules that can eventually lead to cellular DNA disturbances.
Here are some of the more common sources ofFree Radicals:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive intake of sugar, alcohol, and/or caffeine
- Unsaturated and/or rancid fats
- Petrochemicals: found in drugs and artificial food colouring
- Environmental Toxins
- Chronic Constipation (toxins are released back into the bloodstream instead of being eliminated)
There are four items from the list above that I wanted to focus on because I believe that when modified people will notice the quickest and most pronounced positive health benefits.
CONSTIPATION: from the time you eat something until you poop it out should be between 18-24 hours. If it takes less time that than you may not be absorbing nutrients optimally, and if it takes longer your stool is sitting stagnant in your colon. Now, if you have ever seen dog business sitting on the sidewalk for prolonged periods of time you see flies start to swarm, it stinks to high heaven, and it starts to fester. Well my friends, this will happen in your colon when you ‘re constipated. Instead of flies, bacteria starts to feed off of the stool and produce toxic bi-products which are absorbed back into the blood stream. These toxic bi-products cause Free Radicals. By the way, if you want to know what your transit time is, take a tablespoon of sesame seeds and down them (without chewing) with some water. Check your stool to see how long it takes for the sesame seeds to reappear. There is a great article available here if you’re interested in learning how to alleviate constipation.
STRESS: I can’t over emphasize the impact of stress not just on atherosclerosis but on our overall health & wellbeing. Stress causes a fight or flight response that constricts our blood vessels. If there is already plaque you can imagine that this further exacerbates the issue by giving the blood less room to move toward the heart and brain. Read more on managing stress here.
FIBER: just like sugar, coffee, and booze raise your cholesterol levels, it’s been shown that fiber is a reducer. soluble fiber works to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and insoluble fiber works like a little broom that brushes stool from your colon. See above re: constipation and think about getting your intake of fiber up to at 35-50 grams per day along with lots of water.
ACTIVITY: Perhaps one of the most critically important factors in good health is getting off your ass and moving around. Study after study shows that exercising for 30 minutes most days of the week reduces risk of heart disease and stroke. exercise helps us loose unnecessary weight, reduces blood pressure, increases our “good” cholesterol (HDL), and reduces “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Check out this fun article in The Huffington Post for some ideas to get you started on fun activities for the summertime.
Check back tomorrow for Part III of The Health Junction’s series on cholesterol for some nutritional tips on lowering your risk of atherosclerosis along with a sample meal plan.
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