Their cholesterol numbers are in the OK range, they do not smoke, take exercise regularly and according to all government guidelines for food, they seem to eat a healthy diet. Talk about perplexing! It seems like this just snuck up on them ever so silently doesn’t it?
There have been a few articles surfacing on the internet I have found valuable in the way they paint a picture of atherosclerosis – causing plaques to form, which in turn can rupture leading to the above mentioned conditions. In several I have come across there is a descriptive mention of “lipid rafts” crashing into the tender lining of the blood vessel walls and “anchoring” themselves into the *endothelium. These would be the LDL lipid rafts I think.
(*endothelium – The cellular layer lining the body’s blood vessels. Measuring just a few hundred nanometers in thickness, this super-tenuous structure routinely withstands blood flow, hydrostatic pressure, stretch and tissue compression to create a unique and highly dynamic barrier that maintains the organization necessary to partition tissues from the body’s circulatory system. link)
Some of these ‘rafts’ manage to get through and into the endothelium when they crash – which the body immediately recognizes as a foreigner – and sends out the fighting brigade to do away with them. If this were a splinter which became deeply imbedded in your finger after stacking next seasons wood…. you failed to get it out with tweezers or a sewing needle, you would expect inflammation to occur. With the inflammation, there would be redness, a sore, some swelling and probably even some puss would form, enabling you to squeeze it and the offending splinter would explode out with the puss – allowing healing to occur. However who is going to go into your main artery and squeeze it to release the offender?
I know this is a very serious over simplification, but I do believe it gives us a generalized picture of what maybe happening inside of arteries that become swollen – narrowed, which restricts blood supply – and in some cases causes these plaques to form and break off – again causing serious damage and sometimes death.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have been studying why it is that this wondrous structure – the endothelial lining of our blood vessels may become weaker… if you like … allowing these ‘crashing rafts’ to penetrate and begin the inflammatory and thus plaque forming process. I am not certain they have all the answers yet, however they tell us: “We know that a ‘leaky endothelium’ is a central part of the pathogenesis of a number of serious diseases, including sepsis, acute lung injury and ischemic cardiovascular diseases, as well as chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. In addition to the presence of excessive barrier insults, it now appears that leakage can result when the endothelium loses its self-restorative capacity and its dynamic reserve to heal micro-wounds,”. LINK
I am a person who likes to go deep into the reasons of why things happen. I admit I do not always fully understand the scientific terminologies used in papers written by scientists. I do like to get a general idea of what they were researching, the why and the conclusions are usually the only parts I can sometimes comprehend. What I do understand though is that internal inflammation (in your arteries for example) starts silently – not like that pesky splinter I mentioned earlier. According to Doctor Barry Sears:
Silent inflammation is the first sign that your body is out of balance and you are no longer well. You can’t feel it, but it is affecting your heart, your brain, and your immune system. There are three underlying hormonal changes that are linked to silent inflammation. They involve the overproduction of three distinct types of hormones:
• Eicosanoids • Insulin • Cortisol. Each of these three hormones contributes to silent inflammation.
He goes on to describe how, when out of balance, these three hormones (become inflammatory) and damage the human body. He also writes about ways to prevent this from happening. Lucky for me Dr. Sears writes in a language I can comprehend. He says:
You can tip the balance back toward anti-inflammatory eicosanoids in a number of ways. First and foremost, you have to modify what you eat. Anti-inflammatory eicosanoids—which I refer to as the “good” ones—come from eating a diet rich in long-chain omega-3-fatty acids (found in fish oil) and low in omega-6 fatty acids (found in high concentrations of vegetable oils like corn, soybean, sunflower, and safflower). This is because long-chain omega-3 fatty acids reduce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, whereas omega-6 fatty acids increase the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids.
Until about eighty years ago, our population ate a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. We ate a lot more fish back then, and many of our grandparents took a daily dose of omega-3 rich cod liver oil. (Yes, it was disgusting, but it was anti-inflammatory, too.) Furthermore, refined vegetable oils were a very small part of our diet. Now all of that has changed. We’re eating a lot more omega-6 fats and far fewer long-chain omega-3 fats, with the ratio of these two groups of fatty acids being closer to 20:1. With that dramatic increase in omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, the amount of silent inflammation in our society has correspondingly increased. Chronic disorders that affect the Heart, Brain and Immune System are all on the rise because they are initiated by silent inflammation.
How can the type of fat you eat cause silent inflammation? As a lipid (i.e. fat) researcher, I have been intrigued by this question for more than twenty years. It turns out that certain pro-inflammatory eicosanoids (primarily consisting of prostaglandins and leukotrienes) are derived from arachidonic acid (AA), a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid. The classic symptoms of inflammation are due in large part to these eicosanoids. Prostaglandins cause the pain, and leukotrienes cause the swelling and redness associated with inflammation.
When it comes to the hormone Insulin the Doctor tells us: It is also excess insulin that increases silent inflammation. An over-abundance of insulin increases the production of arachidonic acid (AA), the building block for all pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. This is the smoking gun that links excess body fat to a wide range of chronic health risks.
As a type 2 diabetic myself I know what causes insulin to “spike” – to come in excess, and that is the carbohydrates we consume. Eating less carbohydrate (which becomes glucose in our blood stream) means the body has to provide less insulin to deal with it. Working backwards it tells me the less carbohydrate I consume, the less glucose is in my blood stream, the less insulin is required, the less pro inflammatory response my body will suffer.
When he comes to discussing Cortisol, we are told: When your body is in a constant state of silent inflammation, it reacts to it by having your adrenal glands pump out high amounts of cortisol, the primary anti-inflammatory hormone used to decrease excess inflammation. We tend to think of cortisol as a stress hormone, but in reality it is an anti-stress hormone. At the cellular levels all stress creates an inflammatory state caused by an over-production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Cortisol is sent out to lower the levels of these eicosanoids, which is fine over the short run when stress is temporary. But having a high level of constant silent inflammation means you are going to have high levels of cortisol on a permanent basis, causing a number of nasty consequences such as increasing insulin resistance (which makes you fatter), killing nerve cells (which makes you dumber), and depressing your entire immune system (which makes you sicker). This is the collateral damage that comes from increased silent inflammation.
I am beginning to understand that this silent inflammation could well be at the root of what damages the endothelial cells in our vascular system. It does it silently at first. We do not notice it happening. It does not inflict its damage immediately – over night as it were, like that pesky splinter does. We may go for years before we start to notice symptoms, and by then serious damage has been done.
I recommend you read the entire article written by Dr. Sears it is very valuable.
I also subscribe to the mantra that You Are What You Eat. If you are consuming a diet that is full of the ingredients of the typical modern diet, then you are doing damage minute by minute, meal by meal to your entire cellular and therefore vascular structure. You are a walking time bomb, an obese diabetic, blind and possibly limbless heart patient waiting to happen.
Actually being rather crass, you are a drain on the healthcare system and on society as a whole. But it need not stay that way, you do have options, and the human body has a remarkable penchant for healing itself – given the right environment in which to do so.
Learn about what causes this silent inflammation. Learn what you can do to reverse it. Educate yourself and your family so that you can look out on a brighter future. A future without being on the long waiting list for open heart surgery, limb amputation and vascular eye surgery. It really does not have to be incomprehensible at all.
There are many website I peruse, but this one has some great information on the WHY and HOW of things written in very plain speak. I thoroughly enjoy it.
Till next time, be as well as you can. Keep reading.