A recent return to New York City after a few decades gave me an idea about how to explain why cholesterol builds in your arteries. This blog will make even more sense if you take a moment to read prior blogs on this subject.
Back in the late 1970s when I was training in general surgery in New York, the streets looked just like this picture—full of pot hole everywhere. Surprisingly the streets look so much different now. The fact that they are well maintained now lessens the damage being inflicted by the traffic. That, in turn, lessens the need for road repair.
If you’ve had a chance to check out my recent blog posts starting with “Heart Disease Is Coming to a Person Near You”, you will see that I am trying get you to focus on damage to the arteries that actually attracts cholesterol buildup. While most people focus on the cholesterol itself as the main culprit, I want you to pay equal or more attention to the damage to the arteries that is promoting this buildup.
The average person’s heart pumps about five liters of blood through his or her arteries per minute. Compare that to the traffic on a big city street. As I indicated above, the friction from all those car tires damages the surface of the street. So a repair crew has to keep up with maintaining the roads. That personnel needs tools and materials to repair the roads. It the damage to the roads outpaces the repair team or there aren’t enough resources to make the repairs, you end up with city streets full of potholes. That’s what happened to financially-strapped New York in the late seventies.
Similar events are happening in our arterial system. We are hurting our arterial system faster than our body is capable of handling the damage. As we discussed a previous blog, salt-induced high blood pressure creates a boxing-ring status. Smoking hurts the inside lining of the arteries in a similar way. The result of the inflammatory state created by this constant friction? You end up with arteries full of pot holes.
We are setting ourselves up for pot hole-ridden arteries by excessively inflicting injury on our arteries and then not making the necessary repairs. Salt-induced high blood pressure and smoking repeatedly damage arteries just like hurricanes, ice storms, studded tires and unrelenting traffic aggravate damage to the road surface in a big city. But just like cash-strapped New York, we don’t provide our body with all the resources needed to keep up with the necessary repairs.
Food that is natural to our human body provides the resources. We call these resources by different names—vitamins, micronutrients, antioxidants, minerals, etc… Whatever the label, these are all best consumed in their natural state, which our body is designed to recognize and use.
How many of us actually do that? Way too few.
In short, we continue to do damage to our arteries that are already taking a pounding due to all that blood circulating through them by eating salt, which increases the pressure of the blood flow and smoking. To make matters worse, by not consuming a well balanced diet we then don’t provide that inflamed arterial system with enough resources to keep up with the needed repairs.
Why blame only cholesterol for all the mess in the arteries?