Dangers of Fat in Your Blood Vessels …
We all have fat in our blood vessels to varying degrees. This buildup of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products and more is called plaque, and most often it’s associated with atherosclerosis, which typically refers to a buildup of plaque in and on the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
When fats, cholesterol and other substances build up in your arteries, potentially dangerous plaque is formed. The top artery is healthy, but the middle and bottom arteries show what happens when plaque forms, reducing blood flow, and eventually ruptures, leading to a blood clot or blockage of blood flow.
However, atherosclerosis, or fat in your arteries, can impact the arteries anywhere in your body. So while fat in your blood vessels is most often associated with heart problems, it can lead to many other health conditions as well.
What’s the Danger of Fat in Your Arteries?
Plaque buildup in your arteries results from a very slow process, one that often begins in childhood, according to the American Heart Association. As you get older, lifestyle factors and chronic diseases cause the buildup to progress so that by the time you reach your 30s, 40s and after, buildup can be severe.
What causes the plaque buildup in the first place?
Atherosclerosis begins when the endothelium, or the innermost layer of your artery, becomes damaged. This sends platelet blood cells to the site of the injury for repair, leading to inflammation. In response to the inflammation, your body will make excess cholesterol to help in the repair, and other fatty deposits will also begin to accumulate in the area.
In time, the plaque can build up enough to reduce the blood’s flow through the artery or, worse, cause the artery to rupture. A ruptured blood vessel can lead to a blood clot that can travel to other areas of your body, blocking of blood flow to important organs.
If a blood clot blocks off blood flow to your heart, it will result in a heart attack. A clot that blocks a blood vessel to your brain will cause a stroke, while blocked blood flow to your arms or legs can result in gangrene.
Even in the former stage, when blood flow through your arteries is reduced, the following health complications can result:
- Coronary heart disease (plaque buildup in the coronary arteries that leads to reduced blood flow to your heart and causes chest pain and heart attack)
- Carotid artery disease (plaque buildup in the arteries on the sides of your neck, leading to reduced blood flow to your brain and the potential for a stroke)
- Peripheral arterial disease (plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to your legs, arms and pelvis, leading to reduced blood flow to these areas along with numbness, pain and possible infections)
What Damages Your Arteries?
Again, the process of atherosclerosis typically begins when the innermost layer of your arteries becomes damaged. There are several factors that can lead to this damage, including:
- High triglycerides
- High blood pressure
Other factors that also increase the risk of atherosclerosis include:
- Obesity (and especially abdominal obesity)
- An unhealthy diet (with not enough fruits and vegetables)
- Excess alcohol intake
- Not exercising
Atherosclerosis is incredibly common and starts early. In one study of over 260 people who were healthy, nearly 52 percent had atherosclerosis, including 17 percent of teenagers and 85 percent of those over 50. Not one of them had any symptoms or even narrowing of the arteries … but the disease would gradually worsen if steps were not taken to curb its spread.
- High cholesterol (including lowering bad cholesterol and boosting good cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
What’s important to notice is that virtually every risk factor for atherosclerosis can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle, and this is good news because it means you can proactively prevent and even improve this condition.
Exercise: Better Than Drugs for Preventing Fat in Your Arteries?
Exercise is one of the best methods to improve your artery health; it not only improves circulation but also stimulates the production of new cells to repair damage and replace old cells in your arteries.
If you want to keep your arteries in top physical form, it’s essential that you exercise, for a number of reasons. First, exercise reduces your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol, all of which can damage your arteries. What’s more, it may work even better than drugs.
In one study, people with diabetes who exercised for about 40 minutes a day lowered their blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease risk and blood sugar levels over time. In contrast, those who remained sedentary experienced a worsening of their health while four separate studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that drugs to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and raise HDL “good” cholesterol, did next to nothing to lower diabetics’ risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other studies, too, have shown that exercise and other healthy lifestyle changes work better than metformin for preventing metabolic syndrome (which includes abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and high blood pressure — all risk factors for atherosclerosis!).
Here is just a short list of the atherosclerosis risks factors that exercise can improve:
Exercise is also beneficial for your arteries because it boosts the production of nitric oxide among the cells lining your arteries, which improves circulation. Also, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, exercise may even stimulate bone marrow to produce new cells to line your arteries, which will replace aging cells and repair damage in your arteries.
As for what type of exercise program is best, one that is varied and incorporates aerobics, strength training, flexibility work and more will give you the widest range of benefits.
So How Do You Get Rid of Blood Vessel Fat Without Drugs and Surgery?
First and foremost, you’ve got to exercise! Even if you’re extremely healthy, normal aging can take a toll on your arteries, but studies have shown that when you exercise regularly, age will have a much smaller effect on your arteries, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Next, quit smoking if you do, limit your alcohol intake and make a commitment to a healthy diet, one that’s rich in fruits and vegetables, which is known to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Also, remember to keep stress in your life to a minimum by engaging in regular stress-reduction techniques (exercise can be one of them!), as this will further help to prevent or slow the progression of atherosclerosis.
Whether you’re showing symptoms or have risk factors of atherosclerosis or not, it’s a good idea to assume that plaque has already begun to infiltrate your arteries. The good news is that by taking action now — with exercise, whole foods and other healthy lifestyle choices — you can slow the progression and avoid many serious health problems in the future.