The Heart of Health and Fitness: Part 2-Atherosclerosis

Contrary to what most people think, it is not heart attacks that cause the most death in this country. It is the disease of the arteries, and the arteries go to all parts of the body.Sally may be affected in her heart. George may be affected in his kidneys. Alice may be affected in her pancreas. Mary may be affected in her joints. Sam may be affected in his eyes, ears, or his penis. Jan may be affected in her brain.It is atherosclerosis, the build up of fat- and cholesterol-containing plaques in blood vessels, that kills the most people in this country. It just hits us in different places in our bodies, and that certainly does not mean that it only affects the one place that shows symptoms.Atherosclerosis affects the entire body, whether we have symptoms or not, whether we know it or not. And how could we have clogging up of the arteries and not know it? There are no nerves that pick up pain in the arteries. In fact, arteries can be as much as 95% blocked, and we still have no warning sign at all.Millions are unaware that their blood vessels somewhere in their bodies are 80% to 90% blocked. It is the occurrence of a major health or life-threatening event that gives people their first clue that something may be amiss inside of their blood vessels.How often have you heard that someone had no symptoms, no warning, felt great, got a recent clean bill of health and then got struck by a major heart attack or stroke?So what is atherosclerosis? As described in the first part of this article, atherosclerosis is when the inner lining of the blood vessels gets damaged and little pimples or plaque form underneath this damaged lining. These pimples are filled with fat and cholesterol, and get inflamed.The lining of the blood vessel gets damaged from radiation, smoking, trans fatty acids, animal protein, fat, and cholesterol, coffee, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.When these pimples or plaques erupt, the content spurts out. The body controls the damage by quickly clotting the eruption. If the clot gets too big, it actually can block off the blood flow in the tiny artery, causing a stroke, a lung blood clot, or a heart attack.In this country, it has been shown that atherosclerosis can start before we are two years old and, by the time children have reached 10 to 14 years old, their major blood vessels already have fatty streaks–the first visible signs of atherosclerosis. These fatty streaks grow and collect fats and cholesterol, and they only worsen with time–unless you do something about them.Imagine what your blood vessels look like right now!So what are the primary contributors to the plaques that may be building up in your blood vessels:· Cholesterol (all animal products are loaded with cholesterol, including culprits like chicken, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese)· Animal fats· Vegetable fats: all processed oils (including olive oil),trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and fried fats· Animal protein· Refined carbohydrates· Coffee· Smoking· Lack of exerciseThe most exciting part about atherosclerosis and disease of the blood vessels is that often times it is reversible, even in older people.That means, if you clean up your diet, you can take control of your body, your blood vessels, and ultimately your health and fitness.Load your diet and daily food plan with lots of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. In fact, shoot for 10 fruits and 10 vegetables a day.Eliminate those foods that contribute to the clogging up of your life-giving blood vessels and the downward spiral of your heart, your health, and your fitness.The rewards for your efforts are priceless: weight loss and weight control, mobility, activities, energy, hope, joy, and purpose.