Cholesterol, Atherosclerosis and Heart Disease

Our heart is a muscle that generates the force that propels blood throughout our vascular system. The heart requires a constant supply of oxygen, fuel and has its own private blood supply, the coronary arteries, which circulate around the heart.

Atherosclerosis is the technical term for a dangerous condition of heart disease that develops when bad cholesterol combines with inflammatory cells and all sorts of tissue damage as well as other substances in the blood turns into plaques that build up inside the artery wall.

This plaque gets bigger and bigger over time and makes difficult for blood to flow until it gradually blocks off the artery. This plaque also can rupture and causing a clot that may rapidly clog the coronary artery and block the flow of blood, either partially or completely, which deprives the heart of oxygen.

Unless the clot is dissolved or removed very quickly (such as via emergency surgery), a part of the heart muscle will die, never to recover completely. This is what is called a heart attack, and if severe enough, can cause death.

Heart disease is actually the world’s most common cause of death. The most important step in the heart disease process is a sterol (mainly cholesterol) finding its way inside the arterial wall, then being eaten by a cell called a macrophage. Macrophages are cells that also “eat” other molecules, bacteria and even other cells. They are part of the immune system and are found everywhere in the body.

When cholesterol gets past the arterial wall and gets eaten by a macrophage, an inflammatory reaction begins, which further exacerbates the condition and can lead to a vicious cycle.

Heart disease is actually a very complicated process and involves various other factors, including inflammation and oxidative stress. But the most important step is that without cholesterol getting past the arterial wall and being eaten by a macrophage, causing atherosclerosis and heart disease.

That’s why it’s very important to maintain our cholesterol levels.

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