Atherosclerosis Treatment Need Not Include Aspirin

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Aspirin and atherosclerosis treatment have been the focus of intense studyAtherosclerosis is a condition whereby the artery walls are narrowed due to a build-up of plaque. Plaque is a combination of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other particles found in your blood. As the arteries are narrowed, they harden, ultimately prohibiting the proper flow of blood to the different parts of your body. Many people see aspirin as an atherosclerosis treatment.

The Causes of Atherosclerosis

There are many possible reasons why people develop atherosclerosis. The most common follow:

  • Inflammation due to, for example, arthritis or lupus
  • Smoking
  • High (bad) cholesterol levels
  • Resistance to insulin or diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High levels or triglycerides
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms Associated with Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis symptoms usually manifest in the latter stages of the condition, i.e. when it has progressed to the point where arteries are clogged and have difficulty supplying enough blood to your different organs. When a blood clot blocks such an artery, it leads to a stroke or heart attack, depending on where it is situated.
Symptoms to look out for:

  • Angina or chest pains suggest the arteries in your heart are affected
  • Difficult speaking, temporary loss of vision (usually in one eye), drooping facial muscles, or a sudden numbness felt in the legs or arms suggest you have atherosclerosis in the arteries that lead to your brain. If not treated, it may result in a sudden stroke.
  • High blood pressure or kidney failure is indicative of atherosclerosis in your arteries that lead to the kidneys.
  • When atherosclerosis is present in the arteries found in the arms and legs, you might find that your legs pain when walking.
  • Other symptoms include constant fatigue, lack of energy, dizziness, headaches, and trouble breathing.

Atherosclerosis is a Sign of a Body’s Response to Stress

Atherosclerosis and its underlying symptoms are typical of someone with adrenal fatigue when the body is inflamed. In fact, atherosclerosis is directly linked to constant, elevated levels of stress and cortisol in the body.

Cortisol, manufactured in the adrenal glands, is the body’s direct response to stress. However, when you are under constant stress, your adrenal glands try producing more and more cortisol to address the issue, compromising the production of other necessary hormones.

Excessive cortisol production also stimulates appetite, causing weight gain. Besides this, stress-induced cortisol increases you fat and glucose levels in order to supply the energy needed to combat the stressful situation. This results in the pancreas producing more insulin in order to stabilize blood sugar levels. Constant insulin production eventually leads to insulin resistance (also known as pre-diabetes) and eventually, possibly, diabetes.

Atherosclerosis treatment and vessel blockageThe body’s response to stress, besides producing extra cortisol, also produces more adrenaline in preparation for the fight or flight response associated with physical or mental stress.

Constant, elevated amounts of adrenaline have the negative impact of raising your blood pressure and thereby damaging the walls of blood vessels. This causes inflammation that results in cholesterol attachment to these areas with the resulting consequences.

Studies Looking at Aspirin as a Suitable as an Atherosclerosis Treatment

After decades of research, it is still unclear as to whether aspirin can prevent the chances of an atherosclerotic event, even though there has been many studies with immense bases.

The third meta-analysis from the Antithrombotic Trialists’ Collaboration contains data on over 100 000 patients at high risk of atherosclerotic events, representing more than 250 000 patient years of follow up. This meta-analysis, together with its 2 predecessors, forms the main argument for the widespread recommendation of prescribing aspirin to these high-risk patients.

Till now, the results are inconclusive.

The choice of the Antithrombotic Trialists’ Collaboration to advise aspirin for patients at high risk of atherosclerotic events is arbitrary and suspect since very few trials have actually managed to demonstrate the benefits of antiplatelet agents. In fact, it seems that the antiplatelet agents are more effective in reducing the incidence of non-fatal events, rather than reducing the death rate itself.

The effects of antiplatelet agents can be threefold: by genuinely reducing the rate of nonfatal events, by concealing them, or by converting non-fatal events into fatal ones. Among other large long-term trials, there is no evidence whatsoever that aspirin saves lives of patients after myocardial infarction. This suggests that aspirin merely reduces the incidence rate by concealing vascular events, rather than actually preventing them and being a possible atherosclerosis treatment.

Epidemiological data suggest that 25% of nonfatal myocardial infarctions are silent. As aspirin, even at low doses, is an analgesic and because it may provoke dyspepsia, which may create confusion about the cause of chest pain, it is not difficult to believe that aspirin could increase the proportion of silent events from 25% to 30%. This could explain all the benefits of antiplatelet agents on nonfatal myocardial in the meta-analysis.

Aspirin increased the risk of sudden death in every long-term study after myocardial infarction that reported such events.

A Natural Approach to Atherosclerosis Treatment

The conventional approach to treating or managing the problem is using anti-clotting drugs such as warfarin or aspirin, a coronary bypass, a carotid endarterectomy, or angioplasty. There are, however, alternative measures one can investigate.

  • Control you blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels contribute towards the hardening of artery walls. It also leads to insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.
  • Oral hygiene is imperative as gum disease is linked to atherosclerosis.
  • Smoking is a cholesterol oxidizer, resulting in bad cholesterol dumped in blood vessels and contributing towards atherosclerosis.
  • Blood pressure control is important. It is a result of physical or mental stress. Deal with the problem.
  • There is a fine line between good and bad cholesterol. High bad cholesterol levels contribute to the formation of atherosclerosis.
  • Exercise (in moderation) maintains blood vessel health and reduces blood sugar levels.
  • A low glycemic diet moderates blood sugar levels.

Natural Supplements for Atherosclerosis Treatment

What You Should Know

Gingko is a natural alternative for aspirin and conventional atherosclerosis treatmentAspirin is not as good as it sounds, even at the baby aspirin dosage of 81 mg used every day or every other day. To prevent atherosclerosis, one needs to concentrate on building the collagen matrix that improves elasticity and repair vascular integrity. Aspirin is seldom needed to be used as a blood thinner as there are better natural compounds such as vitamin E 400 to 800 I.U. and ginkgo biloba 120 mg.

Omega 3 Fatty acids (predominantly found in fish oil) keep your blood vessels healthy, minimizes both blood clotting and inflammation, increases good cholesterol, and lowers triglyceride levels.

Atherosclerosis treatment