Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

My Arteries Are Rusting on the Inside like My Car Is Rusting on the Outside

by | Sep 24, 2013

You wouldn’t think that rust spots on your car and fat in your arteries would have anything in common, especially since you can see rust spots all too readily and you can’t see the fat build up in your arteries at all. Allow me to explain their shared traits by telling you a story.

My wife and I have a rust problem with our cars. To park our cars we have to make a sharp turn from the driveway into the garage. When in a hurry, we inevitably wind up scratching the cars’ bumpers.  Then the paint and the finish at these scratched locations get peeled off, exposing the metal. In a matter of single season, the cars’ exposed metal starts to rust.

This has happened so frequently, for so long, that we have gotten tired of fixing all these rusty spots. As we learned the hard way, however, delaying that repair allows the rust to keep on spreading. By the time we took our BMW into the shop, the cost of the restoration was so high that the car ended up in the salvage yard even though mechanically it was still in good working condition.

Our cars’ rust problems aren’t solely due to hasty driving in and out of the garage. When driving next to a semi truck, small stone chips have come flying at the both cars, chipping off the paint upon impact. Again, not fixing these chips quickly leads to the exposed part of the car starting to rust.

In both these instances, outside forces have stripped away the outside layers of the cars which serve to protect the metal underneath. Our arteries face a similar problem.

In an average-sized person, the heart pumps five liters of blood every minute. We’re talking about each and every minute of our lives, or about 3,600 liters in just one day. That’s more than 950 gallons.

 WOW!  Just think about that number for a moment—3,600 liters or 950 gallons a day!

The inside lining of the arteries, called the intima, is so smooth that you never hear a sound despite this humongous amount of blood rubbing against the inside of your arteries. The intima remains smooth because, unlike the car paint, the surface of the artery’s inside lining is a dynamic living wall. Just like your skin which is constantly shedding its outer layers, the intimal surface is actively replenished and maintained by its living cells. Constant repair and maintenance goes on without your knowledge, in the same way that your skin consistently renews itself.

As we learned in our previous blogs, however, high blood pressure damages the intima especially at the bends and branching points of the arteries. If you are not eating a well-balanced diet, the intima’s repair team no longer has the tools it needs to get the job done. When if you do fuel yourself properly, high blood pressure continues to do damage to the point where the repair team can no longer keep up. Eventually the areas that are most damaged become susceptible to fat build up, which then spreads from these locations just like the rust on your car.

You can see the rust spots on your car, so you have ample chance to take care of them as soon as they begin to appear. Unfortunately, you have no knowledge of the fat building in your arteries until serious damage like a heart attack gets your attention. By then it is too late for preventative measures.

Stay tuned as we talk about the second partner in the equation—“Something Is Wrong with the Fat” in upcoming posts.


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