And that can be a serious problem since this stealthy condition has been figured as the leading cause of heart attack and stroke.
What is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis, (also known as “hardening” of the arteries), occurs when plaque builds up inside your arteries. This plaque is made up of cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and a blood-clotting material called fibrin which causes the lining of arteries (called the endothelium) to malfunction. Over time, this build-up can narrow and stiffen your arteries, limiting the amount of blood traveling throughout your body and to the heart. This reduced blood flow also prevents your heart from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.2
Mild to moderate atherosclerosis often doesn’t have any symptoms. In fact, symptoms don’t usually occur until an artery is so narrowed or clogged that it can’t supply enough blood to organs and tissues. When they do, symptoms can include chest pain, cramping or pain in legs or arms upon exertion, erectile dysfunction, mental confusion, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, and unexplained fatigue. 3 But be aware that some people never experience any symptoms—even if their arteries are severely clogged. Their first clue might be a heart attack or stroke.
How can you tell if your arteries are compromised? While your doctor may look for risk factors like high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, they may also order an angiogram. This test uses X-ray imaging to see your heart’s blood vessels and check for reduced blood flow. However, the best way to diagnose atherosclerosis is with a coronary calcium scan. This test uses computed tomography (CT) technology to scan your circulatory system and measure the amount of calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries. Compared to an angiograph, a coronary calcium scan carries less risk and is less invasive. It’s also a very accurate way to determine any blockages in your arteries.
The Inflammation Link
So what causes atherosclerosis in the first place? According to recent studies, the culprit is likely chronic inflammation. 4, 5 Here’s how it works: when damage occurs inside your arteries, your immune system sends inflammatory molecules called cytokines to the scene to heal the injury. But instead of helping to correct the problem, these cytokines create a makeshift “band aid” by encouraging cholesterol and other compounds to build up in the walls of your arteries. This, then, creates more damage, which the immune system tries to fix by producing even more inflammation inside your blood vessels. But this process doesn’t just cause artery-clogging atherosclerosis. The steady stream of inflammation can also make the plaque in your arteries more likely to burst, blocking the flow of blood and leading to a heart attack or stroke.Unfortunately, this vicious cycle doesn’t just affect your arteries. Less blood flowing through your arteries can have a downstream effect on your smaller veins and capillaries, and this can reduce blood flow to a variety of body parts like your eyes or your skin. 6
Aged Garlic Extract to the Rescue!
How can you counteract this damaging—and dangerous—inflammation? It’s easier than you might think! Recent research from scientists at Sweden’s Skåne University Hospital and Lund University reports that a daily dose of Kyolic Reserve Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can safely reduce levels of an immune system molecule called interleukin-6 (IL-6) that triggers chronic inflammation.7 This can be a game-changer since IL-6 sparks the production of another inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein or CRP in the liver. CRP may sound familiar since it’s often measured during routine blood tests. Both IL-6 and CRP have been linked to the development of atherosclerosis.8
During another study, these same researchers found that AGE also boosted blood flow within the tiny blood vessels and capillaries that feed your extremities (think your legs, feet, and hands). It was so effective that AGE was shown to boost microcirculation by an impressive 21.6 percent.9 While this benefit might not seem nearly as important as AGE’s ability to tamp down artery-damaging inflammation, it can be critical for people with atherosclerosis. This is because impaired blood flow to the tissues in your extremities can lead to slow wound healing—and that can increase the risk of infection.10
Healthy Habits to Lower Your Risk Even More
Adding AGE to your daily routine is a great place to start when you’re looking to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis. But adding the following lifestyle swaps to the equation has been shown to reduce your risk even more.11
Focus on whole foods. Ditch ultra-processed foods in favor of a Mediterranean diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and poultry, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. Going Club Med on a long-term basis has been clinically shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis.12
Move your body. Engaging in physical activity can help your muscles use oxygen more effectively, as well as improve your blood circulation by promoting new blood vessel growth.13 What’s more, regular workouts have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps to protect against atherosclerosis.14
If you smoke, quit! Kicking those butts is the single more important thing you can do to lower your risk for atherosclerosis.15 It’s also important to avoid second hand smoke since cigarettes contains a number of toxic chemicals that, when inhaled, increase inflammation in your arteries.16
Sidestepping atherosclerosis—or keeping it from progressing if you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition—doesn’t need to be complicated. Adding Kyolic Reserve Aged Garlic Extract to your supplement routine and adopting the lifestyle strategies above can help to protect your arteries for a lifetime.