Friday, October 3, 2008

What is arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is Hardening of the arteries, medically known as arteriosclerosis, is a disease where blood clots and cholesterol deposits adhere to the inner wall of the arteries, eventually making the arteries lose its normal elasticity and transforming them into hard, or even calcified, pipes, whose caliber is narrowed or even totally blocked as years go by.

The common impression is that hardening of the arteries affect only the old people, those in their 60s and 70s, and up. This not true. Autopsies performed on young children, ages 10 or down to 5 who died of accidents, have shown that their arteries, in the heart and the rest of the body, already had a thin lining or coating of hardening of the arteries. You could imagine how much thicker they are in us adults.

Hardening of the arteries by itself does not cause any problems, so long as their function and capacity to transport blood to the muscles and vital organs is not impaired or reduced. If the caliber or the inner channel of the arteries is severely blocked by hardening of the arteries, and the arteries are unable to bring enough volume of blood (which contains oxygen and nutrients) to the tissues and organs they supply, those tissues and organs (like the brain, heart, kidneys, intestines, arms or legs and feet, etc.) will suffer from lack of oxygen and nutrition, which is medically termed ischemia.

Stroke, blindness, dizziness, heart attack, kidney failure, liver failure, intestinal gangrene, leg gangrene, foot gangrene, where tissues rot because of lack of oxygen and nutrients. There are other tissues and organs that could be similarly affected.

Preventive medicine is the best “cure”! There is no wiser strategy in staying healthy than to adopt a healthy lifestyle. While there was confusion 3 or 4 or more decades ago as to what a healthy lifestyle was, today, with advances in research, medical and computer technologies, we now know much more as to what a healthy lifestyle is. It is only logical to expect health problems when we smoke poisonous substances, when we overeat, eat the “wrong” food, stay overweight, not exercise, do not relax, or do not take care of ourselves. Plain common sense will tell us that this lifestyle will lead to health problems. You do not have to be a doctor to come to this conclusion.

Since you could not have chosen your parents, there is nothing you can do about the genetic factor. But the modifiable risks, which are within your control, could and should, be avoided or reduced. A recipe for a healthy lifestyle includes the following ingredients: staying off drugs, no smoking, eating fish, vegetables, fruits, high fiber cereals, instead of pork, beef, eggs, diary products (skim milk is good); exercising every day by aerobic exercises, brisk walking, swimming, tai chi, ballroom dancing or rock & rolling, learning how to relax, preferably with family, a friend, or friends, with good music and a good laughter, watching your weight. Being at peace with others and, especially with yourself, brings down the adrenalin and harmful chemicals in our system, and increases the endomorphins and other good chemicals in our body, and slows down aging and hardening of the arteries.