Literatus: Blood plaques-A A +A
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
ONE of the hazards of getting older comes from the buildup of unwanted substances in our body. Like any machine, the byproduct of human operations gives rise to biological “grimes.” These grimes can be in the form of the now-popular “free radicals” that attack any cell in our body they find biochemically attractive.
These can also be in the form of plaques attaching themselves in the interior of our blood vessels. They consist of fatty materials (such as cholesterol and triglycerides); while rich in macrophages (large white blood cells), which turn into foam-like cells (thus, they are called “foam cells”) as they ingest the fatty
The bad news is that these plaques affect the entire artery tree, especially the larger, high-pressure vessels in the brain, in the kidneys and in the heart. That makes their bad actions widespread.
Another bad news: These plaques are usually unstable, weak and prone to rupture. When they rupture, they induce the clotting mechanism in the blood, producing blood clots (thrombi) in the process. One of the thrombi can occlude arteries, even completely closing the lumen. The smaller arteries, such as the carotid arteries, become the target. And stroke is nothing but the occlusion of the carotid arteries.
Severe occlusion occurs, noted Didangelos and colleagues in the Current Atherosclerosis Reports (2009), when more than 80 percent of the lumen is covered.
Then the blood supply to the affected tissues becomes insufficient, resulting to starving and then ischemia.
The hardening or furring of the blood vessels, called “atherosclerosis,” is managed best while is young. A change in lifestyle and in dietary choices can often be enough to correct the problem. However, among people of advance age, the condition can be life threatening; a ticking clock, so to say.
Hardened arteries mean inelastic arteries. Inelastic arteries compound the problem that atherosclerotic plaque wreaks in the circulatory system. At a time when the blood vessels need its elasticity to handle the increasing pressure due to clogged arteries, elasticity is not there to lend a hand.
Hardened and inelastic arteries also are brittle arteries. Brittle arteries are prone to burst internally. Forced dilation to manage high blood pressure can do just that. I know an elderly patient who had been taking vasodilators and later developed dark patches on the skin. These patches had been mistaken as skin allergy when these could have been patches of hematomas due to ruptured arterioles and capillaries.
Being young remains the best time to make sensible steps in deflecting early stages of atherosclerosis. In fact, pharmacological advances can now reverse atherosclerosis.
That, however, will be a subject in a future issue in Breakthroughs.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 28, 2013.