Could Miscommunication Be Causing Hardened Arteries?

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It’s not a condition that is new on the medical scene — hardening of the arteries — by any means, but the most recent findings certainly are rather novel. It turns out that researchers have discovered the condition may be caused by a communication error among older blood vessels. While they still may have the ability to relax and remain elastic, they may not be able to do so due to a fundamental mechanism not passing along the message.

 The study, which was recently published in the journal Aging Cell, and collectively backed by the American Heart Association, National Institute on Aging, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, looked to see what causes blood vessels in the arteries to lose the essential elasticity that keeps them healthy. Since the loss of this elasticity can signal the onset of high blood pressure and subsequently cardiovascular disease, discovering how this fundamental mechanism plays a role in the condition could open up many new avenues of research and treatment in the future.

 What the researchers discovered was that older blood cells in the arteries are capable of relaxing and remaining more elastic — much like when they were younger — they just aren’t getting the message from this one crucial mechanism that dictates how they function. Understanding that the mechanism plays a role in the health and vitality of the blood cells in the arteries that contribute to this condition is a true breakthrough.

 When older blood vessels lose their ability to ease up, they can cause already present atherosclerotic lesions to become even worse. This can cause high blood pressure, which, in turn, can lead to a slew of very serious problems such as stroke, heart attack, and ultimately death. So when this signaling process breaks down, it causes a whole chain reaction to essentially happen.

 The researchers noted another point that we often reiterate here at Doctors Health e-Bulletin — a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help keep your heart healthy and your blood vessels clear and functioning at an optimum level.

 According to the lead author of the study, Tory Hagen, “This could ultimately provide a new, fundamental and possibly inexpensive way to treat or prevent high blood pressure. It’s also a key to understanding the biological effects of inflammation, which increasingly seems to be implicated not only in heart disease but other chronic and neurologic diseases.”

 The findings, which were discovered in test tube and animal studies, will need to be reviewed and followed up on in subsequent human trials, but so far they do hold a lot of promise. The researchers also touched upon the benefits of lipoic acid in the treatment of hardened arteries and if it should play a role in preventing this condition via daily supplementation.

 The overall concern with hardened arteries is also associated with low-grade inflammation that’s chronic and happens during old age. This is also another area of exciting research in the realm of heart health.

 As with all new findings into heart health, we’ll be sure to keep you posted.