You know them by many names: arteries, veins, and capillaries but what these all have in common is that these are blood vessels that keep you alive by circulating blood through your body. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart; veins carry deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the heart which is why veins are usually blue in color; and finally capillaries are the smallest vessels which is part of the microcirculation system. Blood vessels no matter how they are referred and what their function is, is the means by which your blood flows and then is at the very heart (pun intended) of maintaining a healthy body. Heart disease starts and stops with your blood vessels and let's examine the issues on how these blood vessels can become damaged beginning a chain of events that could lead to a heart attack or stroke and what you can do to counteract them.
The path to a heart attack is typically a two step process. When the arteries narrow, the medical term is atherosclerosis, which by itself does not cause heart attacks. The events that precipitate a heart attack are a blood clot (thrombosis) and constriction and / or spasm of an artery also known as vasoconstriction. Now the artillery became injured when plaque is formed in the vessel interior. When that plaque expands, the wall is pushed out and the opening where the blood flows through is narrowed. Narrowed artillery damage the blood passing through them and clotting can form where the plaque located. If you have a cut blood platelet cells clot to keep you from bleeding to death, but when the platelets are in the blood vessel these platelets can interrupt the flow of blood. These clots can lodge in the narrow arteries of the heart also called "coronary arteries" and will shut off the blood flow through that artery. Ever hear of the expression of someone having a coronary? That happens when what doctors call "coronary thrombosis" occurs. When a blood clot shuts off the flow of blood in the coronary artery, the region of the heart fed by the artery is starved of oxygen and nutrients, which results in the death of those cells, which is an infarct and that is the classic heart attack, called an acute myocardial infarction or AMI for short.
One common cause to damaged blood vessels are your cholesterol levels. Since cholesterol is not soluble in blood, it is transported through the blood in particles called lipoproteins. The two important lipoproteins are the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and the high density lipoproteins (HDL). Having high cholesterol is when you have excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream leaving too many fat deposits for the HDL to clear out. That imbalance of your cholesterol levels can be caused by your diet intake or lack of exercise. The fat stored in your body is used for energy and the LDL carries the fat deposits to the cells which supplies that energy. A lack of a proper diet and exercise regimen aids in the buildup of LDL cholesterol in your blood which can lead to the formation of plaque which can lead to clots. Another theory to the increase of LDL cholesterol is when the LDL becomes damaged by oxidation that is by free radicals. This occurs when the oxidized LDL infiltrates the artery wall causing your white blood cells to be attracted to where this is occurring to form cholesterol deposits.
Other contributing factors to unhealthy blood vessels are when the blood platelets become activated when there is no bleeding. Platelets, which again play a major role in the process of coagulation of blood to arrest bleeding become activated and they still tend to aggregate or clump together and initiate an undesirable blood clot which can block blood flow through the vessel and that can also lead to a heart attack or stroke. When these clots are stationary they are called a thrombus and when these clots travel through the vessel it is called an embolism. Platelets can be activated by tobacco smoke and stress, as well as by diabetes and certain nutritional deficiencies and as people age a greater percentage of these platelets can become undesirably activated. Stress produces the same undesirable activation of blood platelets that smoking, diabetes and nutritional deficiencies do. When you are under stress, your adrenaline really flows. Adrenaline activates blood platelets to be prepared to clump together and form a blood clot, this natural reaction is a holdover from when humans were under the consistent treatment of being attacked by wild animals many years ago. Lastly, adrenaline causes blood vessels to constrict and the result of that is high blood pressure. Too much stress can cause persistent constriction of the blood vessels as well as continuously sticky platelets.
There are several routes you can take to maintain healthy blood vessels; there are prescription medications for everything these days which includes medications for reducing your cholesterol, blood pressure and even stress. But understand what comes with these medications, the side effects and the impact it can have on your lifestyle. You can also seek natural alternatives; there are powerful antioxidants available which will naturally help you maintain your cholesterol levels which in turn will promote healthy blood vessels. Antioxidants will also combat the free radicals within your body. Having healthy blood vessels also means having healthy blood pressure and as for the stress there are natural supplements which can help you reduce your stress. As always, when considering natural supplements as an alternative have a discussion with your health care professional to see if this route is right for you, especially if you are already on prescription medications for any specific condition. Before having that discussion do your research and be prepared to discuss all of the alternatives available. You steer the ship of your life and you need to look at all of the options available to you to live a long and healthy life.