I don’t know about your parents, but mine are terrible when it comes to eating healthy. My sisters and I literally grew up on chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza and soda. I’m not talking about the occasional treat here – we ate lots of those things, all of the time.
As you can imagine, our parents really didn’t know much of anything about health and fitness. They lived in a time where you bought food that seemed cheap and would feed a crowd. The problem with this feeding method is that it’s incredibly unhealthy and utterly lacking on the nutrition front.
Fast forward 30 years. Luckily my sisters and I have learned how to fuel our bodies with healthy food since then. I can’t say the same for my parents however. They continued to eat out, eat in, and eat everything. No matter how greasy, processed or nutritionless.
I bet you can guess where that got them. Right smack in the middle of the doctor’s office with a big ole’ prescription for cholesterol meds.
Can you guess who was at their house not long after with a grocery list of artery cleansing foods? You guessed it, me! Let me give you the low down on what I explained to them.
Getting to the Heart of It
We all know that proper functioning of the heart is integral to our survival. But do you recall from grade school what the heart actually is doing in there? Aside from notifying you when you are stressed, scared or heartbroken?
If you need to brush up on your heart knowledge, don’t worry, I’ll explain. The easiest way for you to think about your heart is to picture it as a simple plumbing system. Your heart has four chambers with four valves, all connected to several blood vessels.
Your veins carry your blood from the rest of your body to your heart and your arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. These arteries carry blood from your heart to your brain and all the way down to your toes.
While the setup seems simple, the heart obviously has some super important responsibilities. As your heart beats, one side of the heart sends blood to the lungs to gather up oxygen. The other side of your heart receives the oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and then transports it out to the rest of your body and tissues.
You can see a great animation of how the heart functions in this YouTube video.
So, you know those arteries that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body? Those pipes can unfortunately become clogged.
What Causes Clogged Arteries?
Clogged arteries occur due to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls. According to WebMD, plaque buildup comes from a few different substances that can circulate within your blood. These include:
- Cellular waste
- Fibrin (substance involved with blood clotting)
As the plaque continues to build up, the cells in the walls of your arteries begin to multiply and release additional materials that can negatively affect the already poor state your arteries are in. As the plaque continues to build up, it causes a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes your arteries to become more narrow and hard.
As you can imagine, this is not the best atmosphere for blood to easily pass through. It’s believed that hardened arteries begin due to damage on the artery wall. The damage is a great place for plaque to deposit itself.
According to the American Heart Association, “atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may start in childhood.” They say that in some people, the disease can begin to advance quickly in your 30’s but likely won’t become dangerous until you are in your 50s or 60s.
Many sources agree that most experts don’t know for certain what starts atherosclerosis, it seems to come from damage to the arterial wall. This damage allows the plaque to form, clogging your arteries.
Long story short, the walls of your arteries start to become damaged, sometimes in childhood. This damage leaves a space for plaque to build up. Plaque comes from things like high cholesterol, fat, and cellular waste.
So how do you work to unclog your arteries? You make some serious but simple changes.
The American Heart Association suggests the following when it comes to lowering your cholesterol and therefore you artery blockages:
- Change your diet
- Monitor your weight
- Quit Smoking
- Drug Therapy
Changing Your Diet
I know you know that diet is everything. What we put in our body affects every system in our body. So it comes as no surprise that putting bad food in your body is going to negatively affect your heart.
Eating healthy can help lower your cholesterol as well as lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your lungs. But did you know it’s also bad for almost every other organ in your body? According to the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, “Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder, and digestive organs.” Wow, right?!
The National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute also states that the chemicals in tobacco negatively affect your blood cells, the way your heart functions as well as the structure and function of your blood vessels. The damage smoking inflicts actually increases your chance of atherosclerosis.
Check our easy and natural ways to quit smoking
Exercise is another no-brainer when it comes to getting yourself healthy but did you know that exercise can actually help directly prevent atherosclerosis? According to this article from Harvard Medical School, exercise “keeps arteries healthy by lowering bad cholesterol and boosting good cholesterol. And it reduces other risk factors for atherosclerosis and blood clots, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and stress.”
The article goes on to state that exercising consistently helps the cells lining your arteries increase their production of nitric oxide which helps your blood circulation. Even if you are an extremely healthy person, your arteries can still grow narrower and stiffer as you age. However Harvard Medical states that a research study done in Italy showed that age had less of an effect on those who exercised regularly.
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough to help with your clogged arteries. Sometimes additional medical intervention is needed. As you age, it’s more and more important to get your yearly checkups and routine blood work done to make sure everything is working as it should.
If your cholesterol or blood pressure come in high, your doctor may initially suggest the lifestyle changes above but in more severe cases, lifestyle changes alone may not do the trick. In these cases, your physician may opt to put you on cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. If statin therapy alone doesn’t work, there are other medication options available.
Your physician will have the best insight as to the best way to care for your heart. Also consult with them and strictly follow their instructions.
What I’d like to focus on for the purposes of this article is artery cleansing foods. The old adage, “You are what you eat” is 100% true in my opinion. You can’t live without food and drink. Your body’s intricate system needs food and drink to survive. But don’t you think, like a car, your body would function exceptionally better if you are giving it the best fuel? I think so!
You are going to get the best bang for your buck by choosing foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. Lucky for you, these foods won’t just help your arteries stay clear; they will also help your body function better in general.
The 5 Best Artery Cleansing Foods
Nuts are one of my absolute favorite snack options. Not only are they full of fiber and protein, they are also crunchy and delicious. They certainly make me feel like I’m having a yummy treat while getting loads of health benefits.
Shape Magazine tells us that “almonds are very high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and fiber, while walnuts are a great plant-based source of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid.”
What is so good about monounsaturated fats? According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help lower bad cholesterol levels which in turn can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Win-win!
2. Heart-Healthy Oils
The world of oils can get confusing sometimes. There are just so many out there to choose from. How do you keep track of what ones are good, bad or indifferent? In the case of clean arteries, you want to stick to oils that contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
According to the American Heart Association, these plant-based oils include:
- Canola oil
- Peanut oil
- Olive oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
You can’t go wrong adding these into your diet. Aside from cooking with these oils, adding them to salads or as toppings on meals like pasta can be a great addition. Sesame oil is one of my favorites. It’s great if you’re looking to create an exciting Asian dish. I usually order mine on Amazon.
3. Enhanced Beverages
I am a major cheerleader for large amounts of water consumption. Water should be your best friend and you should be drinking tons of it daily. However, water is just that… water. Sometimes you need a little more kick to your beverages and that’s where black tea and wine can jump in for heart health.
Believe it or not, black teas and red wine contain some decent ingredients. Merck Manuals states that, “People who eat foods rich in a group of phytochemicals called flavonoids (found in red and purple grapes, red wine, and black teas) appear to have a lower risk of coronary artery disease.”
Sounds like a decent reason for a wine tasting session to me!
Fish are an awesome addition to any diet. They are an amazing source of nutrition and so quick and easy to cook. The best part is that you don’t need to do much at all to fish to make it taste good; some salt, pepper, and lemon juice and you’re good to go.
Why are fish so special? Fish contain a super important unsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acid. According to this article from the Mayo Clinic, when you replace saturated fats, like the ones that come from meat, with unsaturated fatty acids, it may lower your cholesterol.
Even more importantly the Mayo Clinic article goes on to state that “Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that may reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels and lead to heart disease.”
What type of fish should you eat? The American Heart Association suggests:
- Lake Trout
5. Fruits & Vegetables
This suggestion won’t come as a shock and might be slightly less exciting than my previous suggestions but still important nonetheless. According to LiveStrong, many fruits contain soluble fiber which can have a positive impact on your arteries. Certain fruits are known for their cholesterol-lowering characteristics. These include:
Try to get in four to five servings of these types of fruits per day and you’ll be well on your way to great heart health.
On a similar note, vegetables also have amazing properties. They contain something called plant sterols and stanols. According to WebMD, many fruits, grains and vegetables contain small amounts of these compounds.
They occur naturally and have cholesterol-lowering effects. So much so that certain manufacturers have started adding them to foods like orange juice, cereals and granola bars.
Are you wondering how my parents are faring after I force-fed them some artery cleansing foods over the last year? You’ll be pleased to hear they are doing great! My mother just came back from the doctor the other day with amazing news.
From changing her diet and adding exercise, my mom was able to lower her cholesterol on her own and get off her medication. Now if we can just get my dad to follow suit.
I hope this article was helpful for you. If you or anyone you love is struggling with cholesterol or clogged artery issues, please consult your physician as soon as possible. If you and your doctor decide to use any of the tactics or diet suggestions above, please comment below and tell me your story!