The feared final event in coronary heart disease – the number one cause of death – is a blood clot blocking off blood flow in a coronary artery. Without overt symptoms, blood clots develop in our arteries on a regular basis. They are not large enough to cause harm, or they are quickly dissolved by the body’s own intrinsic clot-dissolving process (fibrinolysis).
Although these numerous blood clots may readily dissolve, over time they contribute to plaque size and the further narrowing of the artery. Unstable artery health is the result of repeated blood clots forming over existing plaques. UK cardiologist Malcolm Kendrick hypothesizes that: “Atherosclerotic plaques are just remnants of repeated blood clots, which, in time, turn into a form of scar tissue.”
One function of a healthy endothelium (the smooth, Teflon-like artery lining) is to prevent buildup along the artery wall. As we age and as the lining is chronically damaged, blood clots and plaque formation increase and can eventually get the upper hand.
If clotting over the damaged endothelium leads to increased risk of a heart attack, then preventing this injury and inflammation will help reduce clotting and plaque buildup – but how do we do that?
EASY FIVE STEP PLAN:
1. If you smoke, quit! Smoking creates free radicals that damage the artery wall. Also, smoking increases fibrin, a blood protein that collects platelets together into a clot. (Air pollution – while unavoidable at times – also causes endothelial damage.)
2. Consider enjoying a small amount of alcohol. A daily drink or two reduces free radical synthesis and fibrin buildup. Excess alcohol, however – more than two drinks – leads to blood platelet stickiness and increased blood clot formation.
3. Restrict high glycemic, blood-sugar-raising sugars and grains. Elevated blood sugar – via glycation reactions – causes endothelial damage. Glycation damage occurs when excess sugar attaches – without the aid of an enzyme – to a protein or a lipid, damaging, as an example, hemoglobin and LDL, respectively. Damaged hemoglobin is a marker for diabetes ( (hemoglobin A1c test); small dense oxidized LDL is associated with heart disease.
4. Fix your fats by (1) Including a variety of healthy traditional fats in your diet such as butter, coconut, palm, extra virgin olive oil, and lard (from pastured pigs). (2) Include omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. (Our bodies can’t manufacture omega 3 EPA and DHA.) In just small amounts, omega 3 fats have strong anti-coagulant effects in blood. Consider eating flaxseed and two or more meals of fatty fish weekly, including sardines, herring, salmon or mackerel.
(3) At the same time, restrict highly processed heat-damaged omega 6 vegetable seed oils such as Canola, sunflower, safflower and soybean. Too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3 = inflammation, infection and damage in the coronary arteries. Remember, too, that grass fed beef and lamb and eggs from pastured chickens provide more omega 3 and less omega 6 than their grain-fed counterparts.
5. Learn how to neutralize the harmful effects of stress! Stress of all kinds (physical and psychological) causes the release of adrenaline, cortisol, and growth hormone – fight or flight hormones that damage the endothelium by increasing blood stickiness and raising blood sugar. Resistance is the devil; acceptance will help set you free of damaging, blood-sugar raising stress reactions.
The bottom line: Avoid first and second hand smoke. Vacation in the country (unless their fracking).Considering enjoying a cocktail or a glass of wine with your evening dinner. Restrict cheap, high glycemic carbohydrates that raise blood sugar. Avoid the highly processed vegetable seed oils while emphasizing fatty fish, flaxseed and our traditional, healthy pastured animal foods. Yes, managing stress is a challenge but may be most important of all.
As Sophia Loren said, “Don’t cry about things that can’t cry over you!”