Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in countries with a ‘Westernized’ diet and lifestyle. It is a form of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and represents the process of arterial damage and disease. The earliest signs might appear in infants if the mother has elevated cholesterol or insulin levels. Atherosclerosis is firmly established in late teens. Lifestyle, control over diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and genetic factors influence how quickly cholesterol plaques are laid down and how stable they are.
The problem with high cholesterol levels
Generally, atherosclerosis starts with cholesterol collecting in the blood vessel lining, and muscle cells grow and multiply in the blood vessel wall, making the vessel tighter and less flexible. Connective tissue components collect in the vessel wall, contributing to stiffness. These processes occur gradually over decades and may not cause symptoms the individual recognizes. Finally, the unstable covering on a cholesterol plaque may rupture suddenly, causing an immediate clot that blocks off blood flow, triggering a heart attack or stroke.
Certain disease states accelerate atherosclerosis, the most widely recognized of which is hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is generally defined as a blood pressure of over 140/90 on three separate measurements. The management of hypertension is essential because hypertension is a risk factor in many other disease states, including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease, and kidney failure. Hypertension occurs due to myriad factors but is generally associated with endothelial dysfunction.
Endothelial dysfunction may be a precursor of hypertension
Endothelial dysfunction may occur in accelerated form after its development. The endothelium is the name of the lining of blood vessels, and it is arguably the largest organ in the body, lining 100,000 miles of blood vessels and covering roughly a soccer field in surface area. This lining is responsible for producing nitric oxide, which then relaxes the blood vessel, allowing more blood to flow through it and lowering blood pressure. When the endothelium is dysfunctional, it does not respond to the need for blood flow, and the vessel remains in a constricted state.
Additionally, this dysfunctional endothelium is more susceptible to cholesterol plaques, and these plaques are more likely to rupture, triggering a local clot, which occurs in most heart attacks and strokes. This clot can even travel to another area of the body. This is how an “ulcerated” plaque in a vessel of the neck can cause a stroke in the brain.
Endothelial dysfunction is worsened by diabetes, kidney failure, elevated LDL cholesterol, elevated homocysteine levels, smoking, lack of antioxidant consumption, and a high salt diet. It is endothelial dysfunction that signals the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, contributing to worsening high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and erectile dysfunction.
Endothelial dysfunction, hypertension, oxidative stress, and elevated LDL cholesterol are interrelated factors that may accelerate atherosclerosis. Oxidative stress is a condition in which the natural antioxidants in the body are inadequate to reverse the damage done by free radicals. Infection-fighting cells produce free radicals in the body and in the natural processes of cell function. Measurable antioxidants in the body include Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Supplements to increase antioxidant systems in the body
In a plant-based raw diet (uncooked vegetables and greens), additional antioxidants are consumed and can augment the body’s natural antioxidant systems. Several supplements can be taken to increase antioxidant systems in the body. A diet high in processed foods (such as refined grains and sugars) creates free radicals and increases oxidative stress. While endothelial dysfunction signals the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, it is only oxidized LDL cholesterol (ox-LDL) that is added to cholesterol plaques. Ox-LDL is central to the progression of atherosclerosis because it directly promotes endothelial injury and attracts and traps specialized blood cells (monocytes), which form “foam” cells, which are active in plaque growth, smooth muscle overgrowth, and plaque rupture.
Panoxol™, a patented combination of L-arginine, L-citrulline, horse chestnut seed extract, Ginkgo biloba, cayenne pepper, and red yeast rice, provides a novel non-prescription supplement to support the body’s natural repair mechanisms. Combined with appropriate blood pressure control, diet, and exercise, this product can be expected to shift the balance toward a state of health. Each ingredient works at multiple points in the progression of endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerotic disease, and the combination is synergistic.