Heal Yourself At Home
GSE Atherosclerosis - Build-up of arterial plaque


What is atherosclerosis?

Most cardiovascular disease (CVD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a consequence of atherosclerosis(Greek: athero=paste, sclerosis=hardening) - which is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries with an accumulation of paste, called plaque, in the arterial wall.

Atherosclerosis is a life-saving INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE to prevent you from bleeding to death!

Atherosclerosis occurs as a result of the immune system's INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE to arterial wall damage – intended as a temporary fix, plaque is laid down to prevent bleeding through a damaged blood vessel wall.


Based on his detailed autopsy studies and pathology investigations of those who had died of heart disease, late 19th century, German physiologist Rudolph Virchow proposed that the origin of heart disease was inflammation of the heart and the arteries. He found that their arteries looked as though they had been wounded inside, similar to an infected skin abrasion

Why be concerned about atherosclerosis?

If the actual cause of arterial wall damage is not addressed, arterial plaques can grow in size, eventually blocking the smaller arteries - such as the coronary arteries providing blood to the heart (causing a heart attack), or blocking /bursting the small arteries in the brain (causing strokes), or blocking peripheral arteries to the legs, feet or arms (causing pain and/or nerve/tissue damage), or setting the stage for several other undesirable possibilities:

–   Heart Attack - Each year, more than a million people in the U.S. have a heart attack, and about half of them die. Of those who die, about half of them do so within 1 hour of the start of symptoms, and before reaching the hospital.

•    It is usual that a heart attack, called a myocardial infarction (MI), is a problem where “plaque” has formed at the site of an injury to an arterial wall - An MI is almost always due to a blood clot (thrombus), which forms when the plaque ruptures, blocking an artery. In fact, atherosclerotic plaque rupture with thrombosis is present in coronary arteries (supplying oxygen to the heart) of 80-90% of fatal MIs.

Davies MJ et al, Thrombosis and acute coronary artery lesions in sudden cardiac ischemic death, NEJM, 1984

•   The life quality and longevity of an MI survivor is mainly determined by the amount of damage done to the heart muscle - If treatment is not started quickly, the affected area of heart muscle begins to die. If a person survives a heart attack, the injured area of the heart muscle is replaced by scar tissue, which weakens the pumping action of the heart and can lead to heart failure and other complications.

The peak time for a heart attack is between 6:00 A.M. and 12:00 noon.

–   Angina – heavy, tight squeezing pain in the chest caused by low blood flow /oxygen supply to the heart; generally occurs when the heart is working hard and thus requiring more oxygen E.g. during exercise, at times of stress, in extremes of temperature, soon after a meal.

–   Hypertension (high blood pressure) - due to increased resistance to blood flow

–   Hemorrhagic Burst - rupture of blood vessels due to increased blood pressure

–   Thrombosis - clot formation causing blockage

–   Stroke - blood supply to part of the brain is reduced, causing brain cells to die as oxygen and glucose delivery is disrupted. Sensation, movement or function controlled by the damaged part of the brain is impaired. Stroke kills one third of its victims. A stroke is usually consequential to any of the following events:

–   HBP/ Rupture of an artery (Hemorrhagic burst) within the brain

–   Thrombosis(clot) in the large-sized internal carotid or vertebral arteries - supplying the blood to the brain;

–   Embolism - when a small clot, originating either from a large artery (E.g. carotid artery) or from the heart, travels (embolizes) to the brain's supply arteries causing (a) Blockage of an arteriole in the brain affecting just a small part of the brain, or even (b) Blockage of the larger arteries supplying the brain.

–   Heart or kidney failure

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