Hardened or Stiff Arteries -- Foods
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Last updated November 26, 2017, originally published May 18, 2011
By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist

Have you heard of a silent, insidious condition that sneaks up on
you to cause heart disease and heart attack? According to the
American Heart Association, around 1.5 million heart attacks
strike each year and more than 11 million people in America
suffer from heart disease. And what causes the majority of these
heart problems? Hardened or stiff arteries account for almost 75
percent of all deaths from coronary disease (American Heart
Association statistics). How can you prevent hardened arteries
and the risk of heart attack? Will your diet help and which foods
can help reduce your risk?

Hardened or stiff arteries is also known as "atherosclerosis" or
"arteriosclerosis". This condition occurs when your arteries
become narrow through the accumulation of fat deposited on
the inside of the artery walls. The fat deposits that stick to your
artery walls harden, meaning plaque grows inside your arteries.

When your arteries are sufficiently blocked by this plaque, you
reduce the blood and oxygen supply to your major organs.

Hardened arteries is a big problem in the US. A 2001 study from
the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio found 51.9
percent of the 262 individuals studied had some degree of

Hardened arteries were found in 85 percent of those older than
50. Perhaps more worrying, 17 percent of teenagers in the
study had atherosclerosis.

In fact, artherosclerosis is a progressive disease. As a report
from the University of Indiana has noted, your arteries are
perfectly clean at birth. But by the time you are 10 years old,
fatty streaks start to appear. Left unchecked and made worse by
bad diets and inactivity, the problem gets worse and worse over

Signs That Your Arteries Are Stiff

What are the signs of hardening of the arteries? One of the chief
signs is high blood pressure. Another somewhat unusual sign
has been found is lack of flexibility in your body. Can you touch
your toes while sitting on the floor? If you can't and you are
middle-aged or older, this could indicate that your arteries are

A 2009 University of North Texas Health Centre study lead by Dr.
Kenta Yamamoto found that people who cannot touch their toes
while sitting have higher levels of artery stiffening. The study
concluded that "... a less flexible body indicates arterial
stiffening, especially in middle-aged and older adults." (Read
more about
how stretching and other tips can help slow aging.)


The study looked at 526 people between the ages of 20 and 83.
The participants sat on the floor with their legs straight and their
toes pointed up, and were asked to try to touch their toes. This
is a standard "sit and reach test" used by physiologists to test
flexibility.  For those participants over 40, the researchers
discovered a strikingly consistent link between their performance
on this sit-and-reach test and the amount of hardening of their
arteries. The more flexible they were on the sit-and-reach test,
the healthier their arteries were.

This of course is only one study. We would like to see the study
repeated by other universities before we can completely rely on
its findings.]

What Are The Causes of Hardened or Stiff Arteries?

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why hardened arteries occur.
Atherosclerosis is a slow-building and complicated condition that
starts in childhood and develops as you grow older. However,
the process of hardened arteries is believed to begin with
damage to the inside of the artery. This damage can be caused
through elevated cholesterol levels, tobacco smoke, high blood
pressure or diabetes – many of the dangerous conditions
Americans are increasingly affected by today.

Who Suffers from Hardened Arteries?

There are things you can change that increase your risk of
hardened arteries, and things you can’t change. Firstly, the ones
you can’t – you may have a family history of high cholesterol,
which can spiral as you reach your 20s and become much worse
in your 40s and 50s. This can cause your arteries to harden. Men
are at higher risk of hardened arteries than women, and older
people are more at risk than younger people. Things you can
change that affect your risk of hardened arteries include having
high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, smoking,
being overweight and taking little exercise.

What Are The Dangers of Hardened Arteries?

The most dangerous conditions are often the ones we are
unaware of. Much of the time we take our heart and the blood it
receives for granted. Hardened arteries are most dangerous
when they affect the blood supply to your heart. If plaque
blocks your coronary arteries, the resulting lack of oxygen to
your heart can cause angina, heart failure or heart attack. When
the plaque blocks the arteries leading to the brain you can suffer
a stroke.

What Are The Symptoms of Hardened or Stiff Arteries?

One of the most worrying things about hardened arteries is that
the condition doesn’t cause any symptoms until it’s too late. In
fact, one of the first symptoms is heart attack or stroke.
Dangerous, right? You may develop chest pain, or if the arteries
are supplying the brain you may suffer weakness or numbness,
or paralysis. If the hardened arteries are supplying the legs you
may suffer severe pain when walking.

Prevention is key to dealing with hardened arteries. The best
thing you can do to protect yourself is to look at your lifestyle
and your diet. Eat a diet low in sodium and high in fiber. (Read
more about how
fiber can increase your lifespan by 22% ).

Keep stress to a minimum and cut down on saturated fat. In
addition, the following top 10 foods and herbs are all thought to
protect your arteries against dangerous hardening and

9 Foods That Help Prevent Hardening of Your Arteries

1. Fish Oil  Reduces the Risk of Hardened Arteries

There is some evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids found in
fish and fish oil may help protect against hardened arteries. One
2007 study from Kobe University, Japan  discovered fish oil
helps prevent the build-up of heart problems. Another 2010
study from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine,
Winston-Salem, NC found alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from fish oil
strongly protected the arteries from atherosclerosis. The study,
interestingly, found alpha-linolenic acid from plant sources such
as flaxseed oil didn’t have a similar protective effect against
hardened arteries.

Fish oil is thought to work on hardened arteries by reducing the
levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in the blood or by elevating
the level of good cholesterol in the blood. However, other
studies such as a 2004 review published by the Cochrane
Collaboration found little or no benefits to the arteries from
taking omega-3 fatty acids. (Read more about the
benefits of fish oil.)

Plant Sources of Alpha-linolenic Acid Protect Against
Hardened Arteries?

The jury is equally still out when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids
derived from plants, in particular flaxseed oil. While the
previously discussed Wake Forest University School of Medicine
study found no atherosclerosis benefits from taking flaxseed oil,
many experts do believe flaxseed offers artery benefits. Certain
studies, such as the 1997 study from University of
Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada suggest flaxseed oil can
reduce bad cholesterol and slow down the process of

The Role of Fat in The Risk of Hardened Arteries

For flexible, healthy arteries shift your fat emphasis – eat healthy
fats such as the monounsaturated fat in olive oil and cut out
saturated fats, particularly trans-fatty acids found in
hydrogenated oils and margarine. Nuts are good for lowering
your risk of hardened arteries and preventing heart disease
because nuts are high in monounsaturated fats. (Read more
about the
health benefits of nuts.)

In fact, studies have found that adding
peanuts or walnuts to a
fatty meal prevents the stiffening of arteries
that normally occurs
immediately after eating such as meal. Olive oil does not have a
similar effect.]

One 1999 study from the University of Illinois, Burnsides
Research Laboratory found
magnesium helped reduce the
atherosclerosis damage caused by hydrogenated fats in the diet.
However, the important thing is to reduce your “bad” fat
consumption, not try to correct the damage with another

Do Antioxidants Reduce Your Risk of Hardened Arteries?

Free radicals are believed to harm the arteries and contribute to
a higher risk of developing a dangerous hardening of the
arteries. To fight against free radicals the body uses
antioxidants, but antioxidant levels in the body aren’t always up
to scratch. Certain nutrients act as natural antioxidants and can
be added to your diet to boost your defenses and your artery

Many studies have found Vitamin E helps reduce the risk of
cardiovascular disease, but others have found no protective link.
A diet high in beta-carotene, found in yellow and orange fruits
and vegetables and dark green veggies, is linked with a lower
risk of atherosclerosis.

A 1995 research study from University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill demonstrate this benefit. Scientists Kohlmeier and
Hastings looked at a number of research papers into the
protective effects of antioxidants such as beta-carotene in
cardiovascular disease development. They found epidemiologic
evidence that beta-carotene was associated with a protective
effect on cardiovascular disease development, including in
reducing plaque formation. However, they also reported that
beta carotene may not be the answer for all high-risk
populations and that more research was needed. Be careful
when taking beta-carotene in supplement form as you could also
increase your risk of heart disease, especially if you smoke or
drink a lot of alcohol.

However, be careful when taking beta-carotene in supplement
form as you could also increase your risk of heart disease,
especially if you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol. A 1994 study
from the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention
Study Group found an 11 percent higher rate of death from
heart disease and 15 percent more strokes in smokers also
taking beta-carotene supplements.

So, to get an artery boost from beta-carotene you should
increase your intake of vegetables.  Recommended antioxidant
powerhouses include vitamin C, berries, selenium, grape seed,
pine bark, turmeric, and resveratrol from red wine and grape

Once antioxidant that may help is Coenzyme Q10. One 2003
study from Medical Hospital and Research Centre, Moradabad,
India suggested Coenzyme Q10 reduced the risk of
atherosclerosis in patients who had had a heart attack.

Green Tea Helps Protect The Arteries

Several studies point to the health benefits of green tea, and
some even state that black tea can also help heal your heart.
How does your daily cup of tea help prevent heart disease?
Studies such as 1995 research from Saitama Cancer Center
Research Institute, Japan and 1992 research from the National
Defense Medical College, Saitama, Japan suggest green tea helps
reduce bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol and reduce
triglyceride levels – all of which can reduce your risk of
hardened or stiff arteries.

Artichoke Extract Helps Treat Hardened Arteries

A 2009 Cochrane Database review of research undertaken by
the Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and
Plymouth, UK discovered that an extract of artichoke leaf offers
some benefits to the body when it comes to preventing
hardened arteries. Whether artichoke leaf extract is also
effective at lowering bad cholesterol levels, as many others
suggest, wasn’t proven by this study. (Artichokes also help to
suppress your appetite,
read more.)

Garlic Lowers Hardened Artery Risk

Another benefit of the pungent herb garlic, along with its
reported cholesterol-lowering effects and blood pressure-
busting abilities, is believed to be its ability to slow the
development of atherosclerosis. One 1997 study from the
University of Brisbane, Australia suggested garlic preparations
reduced the size of artery plaque deposits by almost 50 percent
and a 1999 study from the University Clinic Charité of the
Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany was equally glowing in the
praise of this stinky herb – according to this research, garlic
powder taken every day in a does of 900mg significantly
reduced the development of atherosclerosis in 152 study

Mesoglycan Slows The Progress Of Hardened Arteries

The substance mesoglycan is taken from pigs’ intestines. Not a
remedy for vegetarians, but does it help reduce the risk of
hardened arteries? According to a 1998 study from the
Università degli Studi G. D'Annunzio, Chieti, it does. The research
showed that 200mg of the substance a day slowed the
thickening of the arteries so the artery lining was eventually 7.5
times less thick in those that took the supplement.

Barley Leaf as an Artery Protector

According to one 2002 study from China Medical College,
Taichung, Taiwan barley leaf essence helps prevent
cardiovascular disease where the hardening of the arteries is a
contributing factor. The research looked at rabbits and found
those that were fed a food mixture containing barley leaf extract
had lower levels of cholesterol and less build-up of artery plaque.

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Artichokes from a French market. Artichokes are a
natural remedy for hardened or stiff arteries.
Artichokes help to relax hardened arteries, studies
show. These beauties were bought at a French
market in the Rhone-Alpes region of France by Maria,
one of our Editors.
EEEEasy Artichoke and Hamburger Deviled Eggs.  


1 boiled artichoke
4 boiled eggs
4 ounces of hamburger meat
2 garlic cloves

1. Slice and dice garlic cloves. Carmelize in olive oil. Grill the hamburger
in same skillet

2. Hard boil 4 eggs

2. Peel artichoke and scrape the "artichoke butter".

3. Peel the eggs, cut them in half. Scoop out the yoolks.

4. add one egg yolk to the artichoke. Mash with fork. Add a pinch of sea

5. Add the hamburger and garlics to the artichoke and egg mix. Mash
with a fork to blend.

6. Scoop with a spoon into the egg halves. Sprinkle paprika. Add a touch
of red pepper on top. Voila! Delicious bites which will fill you up and keep
you from gettting hungry for hours. Artichokes also help to clean out
cligged arteries. Enjoy!
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