As individuals age, they become more susceptible to arteriosclerosis, a condition that increases the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. However, health experts suggest that adopting heart-healthy eating habits can effectively improve blood vessel health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Arteriosclerosis occurs when the arteries, which are responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients from the heart to other parts of the body, become thickened and hardened, impeding normal blood flow. There are three types of arteriosclerosis: small artery arteriosclerosis, middle artery arteriosclerosis, and atherosclerosis.
Among these types, atherosclerosis is particularly detrimental as it is caused by the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances on or inside the arterial wall. This accumulation can lead to arterial stenosis (narrowing of the artery), blockage of blood flow, and plaque rupture, which in turn can result in blood clots, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and cerebral infarction (stroke).
According to the Cleveland Clinic, arteriosclerosis can also lead to various other serious complications such as aneurysms, carotid artery disease, coronary artery disease, critical limb ischemia, kidney failure, mesenteric ischemia, peripheral artery disease, pulmonary embolism, renal artery stenosis, stroke, thrombosis, and transient ischemic attack.
One of the earliest detectable changes in the development of atherosclerosis is endothelial cell activation and dysfunction. Vascular endothelial cells play a crucial role in vascular homeostasis and disease. Atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the arteries characterized by the formation of plaques composed of lipids, immune cells, and smooth muscle cells, is promoted by endothelial dysfunction. It allows the infiltration of lipids and immune cells into the arterial wall, contributing to the formation of plaques.
Fortunately, dietary changes can have a positive impact on endothelial dysfunction. Adopting a healthy diet that promotes heart health is an effective way to improve vascular health.
To maintain healthy arteries, it is recommended to consume foods that help maintain vascular elasticity and patency, ultimately reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Nutritionist Chia-Ling Kuo from KUO General Hospital in Tainan, Taiwan, suggests four foods that can contribute to artery health:
1. Pecans: Pecans are rich in antioxidants, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), protein, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that MUFA helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other inflammation-related diseases. ALA, found in pecans, is also beneficial for cardiovascular health.
2. Olive oil: The main fatty acid in olive oil is oleic acid, which has been found to regulate cholesterol levels and impact the inflammatory response associated with the early stages of atherosclerosis. Olive oil supplementation in the diet has been shown to change the lipid composition of low-density lipoprotein, exhibiting anti-atherosclerotic properties.
3. Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a good source of folic acid and vitamin C. Folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine, an amino acid that may damage arterial walls and increase the risk of stroke or heart attack. Vitamin C can prevent endothelial dysfunction, a sign of many inflammatory vascular diseases.
4. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate has been found to restore artery flexibility and prevent white blood cells from adhering to the blood vessel wall, both common causes of arterial blockage. Cocoa, found in dark chocolate, is rich in high-quality antioxidant polyphenols, which have a range of beneficial effects on vascular health.
In conclusion, adopting a heart-healthy diet that includes foods such as pecans, olive oil, cauliflower, and dark chocolate can help maintain healthy arteries. These nutritional choices can improve blood vessel health, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and mitigate the complications associated with arteriosclerosis.