Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of death and impairment
in America today. It is estimated that 1,100,000 new or recurrent
coronary attacks occur per year in America. It affects close
to 60 million Americans. To better place this disease in perspective,
every 20 seconds a person in the United States has a heart attack,
and one third of these attacks lead to death. Moreover, 50% of
Americans have levels of cholesterol that place them at high
risk of coronary artery disease, and cholesterol is only one
factor that causes the occlusion of arteries that is technically
known as atherosclerosis.
The high mortality of the disease, widespread suffering, and
huge economic impact demand an integrated medical approach and
therapies. This protocol reflects that meticulous approach.
The most common form of heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis,
generally known as coronary heart disease, hardening and/or thickening
of the arteries. It involves the slow buildup of deposits of
fatty substances, cholesterol, body cellular waste products,
calcium, and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood) in the
inside lining of an artery. The buildup that results, called
plaque, may partially or totally block the blood's flow through
the artery. This can lead to the formation of a blood clot (thrombus)
on the plaque's surface. If either of these occurs and blocks
the entire artery, a heart attack or stroke may result.
One researcher reported that otherwise-healthy soldiers examined
after returning from World War II had arteries already occluded
22%, even though they were only 20 years old. Sometimes referred
to as the "silent killer," atherosclerosis and cardiovascular
disease can progress for years undetected by an individual who
may have, or be at great risk from, the disease.
Generally few symptoms arise with the early, and in some cases
later, stages of the disease. An elevated or high blood pressure
for an individual with normal blood pressure may be an indication
of disease presence; however, blood pressure increases generally
occur over a long period of time, as the disease slowly advances.
A study reported in Circulation (March 4, 1997) confirmed
that even borderline blood pressure readings (140/90) represent
a risk factor for atherosclerosis and stroke. However, blood-pressure
is associated with many other factors such as being overweight,
lack of exercise, higher blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may start
in childhood. In some people, this disease progresses rapidly
in their 30s and early 40s-in others it doesn't become threatening
until later in life.
Exactly how atherosclerosis begins or what causes it isn't
known, but some theories have been proposed. Many scientists
think atherosclerosis begins because the innermost layer of the
artery, called the endothelium, becomes damaged. Possible causes
of damage to the arterial wall are free-radical reactions, elevated
levels of oxidated serum cholesterol, triglycerides, fibrinogen
and homocysteine, high blood pressure, obesity, lifestyle issues,
cigarette smoke, and environmental pollutants.
Specific diseases caused by atherosclerosis include coronary
artery disease, angina pectoris, cerebral vascular disease, thrombotic
stroke, transient ischemic attacks, and diabetic vascular complications.
Three mechanisms that have been identified as the most probable
causative factors in the development of atherosclerosis include
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