I remember boxer Tommy Morrison, who recently died at just 44 years of age. In 1993 he beat then heavy weight boxing champion George Foreman. The news of his premature death made me think of a way to explain how and why fat deposits in the arteries.
In previous posts, including “Heart Disease Is Coming to a Person Near You” and “Cardiovascular Disease: Is It All About Fat?”, we’ve talked about how the combination of damage to the inside of the artery plus high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood causes fat build up in the arteries. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
The heart and the arteries work together in concert much like graceful, experienced dance partners. The heart pumps blood with each heart beat while arteries carry blood through the body. As the heart squeezes to pump the blood, the arteries relax to receive this blood. When the heart relaxes in order to fill up, the arteries tighten up. One dance partner moves forward while the other gives in and moves backward in equal measure.
In a graceful dance performance, there is no friction between the two partners. When the arteries become stiff from salt-induced high blood pressure, however, the heart and the arteries are no longer well orchestrated dance partners. The arteries do not give as much as they need to when the heart pumps. In fact they are no longer dancing at all. Instead, both the heart and the arteries have moved from the dance floor to the boxing ring where the arteries take a beating.
The punch from the heart beat lands the hardest on the inside of the arteries where there is a turn or a branch. Over time these damaged area attract fat build up. Once you have damaged arteries from bad eating habits like adding salt to your food, you will continue to build fat in your arteries even once your cholesterol level is supposedly under control with pills. Coming up: more about damaged arteries and what you can do about it.