There's more to heart health than just taking care of your ticker. Your arterial health is just as important.
Without healthy arteries to carry oxygen and vital nutrients to the rest of your body, you could be at risk for a host of health issues, even death. Unfortunately, clogged arteries, medically known as atherosclerosis, is an all-too-common problem these days.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which fatty deposits build up in your arteries.1 Known as plaque, these deposits slowly develop as cholesterol, fats, and other substances accumulate over the years, causing your arteries to narrow and stiffen. This not only reduces blood flow but also decreases the crucial supply of oxygen and other vital nutrients to the rest of your body. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of about 50 percent of all deaths in the Western world.2
Are You at Risk?
There’s a decent chance you already have atherosclerosis and don’t even know it. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of Americans between the ages of 45 and 84 are unaware that they have this potentially deadly disease.
Several factors can contribute to your risk of developing atherosclerosis:
Poor diet. Your eating habits may have the biggest impact on arterial health. The more high-fat foods you eat—especially those found in ultra-processed food—the better chance you have of clogging up your arteries. According to the American Heart Association, chowing down on saturated fats, and especially trans fats, causes your body to produce LDL cholesterol, which can accumulate in the arteries and contribute to blockages. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are directly associated with a heightened risk for atherosclerosis development and atherosclerotic cardiovascular events.3 4
If you eat a meat-centric diet, you may be putting your arteries at a higher risk of atherosclerosis. That’s because animal protein can increase the production of an amino acid called homocysteine. And high homocysteine levels have been shown to cause arterial inflammation and atherosclerosis.5
Physical inactivity. If you live life as a couch potato, you aren’t doing your health any favors. Spending your free time in front of the TV not only has a negative effect on your weight; it also has an unhealthy impact on your cholesterol levels.6
Smoking. The danger smoking poses to your lungs is well established. But this harmful habit also creates a serious risk to your cardiovascular health and has been identified as an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which can wreak havoc on your arteries by increasing inflammation and stimulating receptors that accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis.7
Other health concerns. You’re more liable to face problems in your arteries if you already suffer from another health issue. For instance, diabetes increases the incidence of coronary artery disease.8 And patients with high blood pressure are also more susceptible to coronary atherosclerosis.9
Love Your Heart
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. You can reduce your chances of clogged arteries—and even reverse atherosclerosis—by getting all of the major risk factors under control.10 Here’s how:
Check with your doctor. Because atherosclerosis can fly under the radar, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure your cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels are up to par. It’s even more important to seek professional medical advice if you’re experiencing common symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and muscle weakness. These are all signs that you may have a blockage in your arteries.
Tweak your diet. Avoid or minimize foods with a high saturated fat content, such as soft cheeses, bacon, fried foods, and commercial baked goods (which are usually loaded with trans fats). That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your favorite fare, though. Use an air fryer instead of traditional frying. Opt for healthy cooking oils that are low in saturated fats, such as olive oil. And incorporate a superfood or two, like avocado, into your meals. In fact, eating an avocado each day can reduce oxidized LDL in overweight and obese adults, according to a 2019 report in The Journal of Nutrition.11 Also, make sure to get plenty of fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
Get your heart rate up. Physical activity has a huge impact on the health of your arteries. Endurance exercise, like jogging or biking, can reduce early aortic lesion formation.12 Swimming has been shown to activate autophagy and reduce atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta.13 And for those with existing cardiovascular disease, exercise improves vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) and quality of life, while reducing the inflammation that causes the development of atherosclerosis.14
Break unhealthy habits. Quitting smoking, no matter your age, will have an immediate impact on your health. Not only will your lungs begin to heal, but your blood pressure and circulation will improve, and your risk for heart issues will quickly start to decline. It’s also smart to cut back on alcohol as excessive drinking can lead to all sorts of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.15 But don’t worry—you can still enjoy that morning cup of joe. Several studies have shown that a higher coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure.16
Add a supplement. You can give your artery health a boost with a targeted supplement. One supplement in particular, Aged Garlic Extract (AGE), is known to have big benefits on the cardiovascular system. AGE has been shown to slow the progression of coronary calcification in those with coronary artery disease.17 It also prevents coronary artery calcification, and lowers blood glucose levels and blood pressure in patients at increased risk of cardiovascular events.18
For general cardiovascular support, look for a high-potency AGE supplement, such as Kyolic Cardiovascular Health One Per Day Formula 250, which helps maintain proper circulation and overall heart health.
But if high cholesterol and homocysteine levels are more your concern, opt for a supplement that combines AGE with the B vitamins. Kyolic Total Heart Health Formula 108 contains a powerful blend of artery-smart Aged Garlic Extract and specific B vitamins, which have been shown to lower homocysteine levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease.19
Atherosclerosis can pose a serious danger to your health. But by taking action early, you can prevent—and even reverse—arterial problems so your cardiovascular system can stay health for many years to come.
- Wolf D. Immunity and Inflammation in Atherosclerosis. Circulation Research. 2019;124(2):315–27.
- Pahwa R. Atherosclerosis. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. 2022.
- Aguilar-Ballester M. Impact of Cholesterol Metabolism in Immune Cell Function and Atherosclerosis. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):2021.
- Linton MRF. The Role of Lipids and Lipoproteins in Atherosclerosis. [Updated 2019 Jan 3]. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com. 2000.
- Pang X. Homocysteine induces the expression of C-reactive protein via NMDAr-ROS-MAPK-NF-κB signal pathway in rat vascular smooth muscle cells. Atherosclerosis. 2014;236(1):73–81.
- Kronenberg F. Influence of leisure time physical activity and television watching on atherosclerosis risk factors in the NHLBI Family Heart Study. Atherosclerosis. 2000;153(2):433–43.
- Fu X. Nicotine: Regulatory roles and mechanisms in atherosclerosis progression. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2021;151:112154.
- Steiner G. The Diabetes Atherosclerosis Intervention Study (DAIS): a study conducted in cooperation with the World Health Organization. Diabetologia. 1996;39:1655–61.
- Nakanishi R. Relationship of Hypertension to Coronary Atherosclerosis and Cardiac Events in Patients With Coronary Computed Tomographic Angiography. Hypertension. 2017;70(2):293–9.
- Schade DS. Stop Stenting; Start Reversing Atherosclerosis. The American Journal of Medicine. 2021;134(3):301–3.
- Wang L. A Moderate-Fat Diet with One Avocado per Day Increases Plasma Antioxidants and Decreases the Oxidation of Small, Dense LDL in Adults with Overweight and Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition. 2020;150(2);276–84.
- Jakic B. The Effects of Endurance Exercise and Diet on Atherosclerosis in Young and Aged ApoE–/– and Wild-Type Mice. Gerontology. 2019;65:45–56.
- Li Y. Swimming exercise activates aortic autophagy and limits atherosclerosis in ApoE−/− mice. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. 2020;14(3):264–70.
- Pinckard K. Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health. Front. Cardiovasc. Med. 2019.
- Piano MR. Alcohol’s Effects on the Cardiovascular System. Alcohol Res. 2017;38(2):219–41.
- Stevens LM. Association Between Coffee Intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk. Circulation: Heart Failure. 2021;14(2):e006799.
- Morihara N. Aged Garlic Extract Suppresses the Development of Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E–Knockout Mice. The Journal of Nutrition. 2016;146(2):460S–3S.
- Wlosinska M. The effect of aged garlic extract on the atherosclerotic process – a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020;20(132).
- Yuan S. Homocysteine, B vitamins, and cardiovascular disease: a Mendelian randomization study. BMC Med. 2021;19;97.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.