Your Blood Vessels, Your Heart, Your LivelihoodBackground Information

Your circulatory system is a vital organ system that is responsible for circulating nutrients, oxygen/carbon dioxide, blood, hormones, and other essential molecules. Much like the plumbing system of a house, our circulatory systems must be free of clogs that might hinder its ability to circulate vital nutrients throughout the entire body. Your heart is the driving force behind the circulation of your blood vessels, and it actively pumps blood throughout your body, all day, everyday to help keep all of your body parts alive.

Problems arise when poor choices in diet, lack of exercise, and old age contribute to blockages such as blood clots in your arteries. If the blood vessels are unable to circulate and bring nutrients to a certain organ or tissue, this will cause that particular organ or tissue to begin dying. If arteries leading to the heart are blocked, this is called a heart attack. If arteries leading to the brain are blocked, this is called a stroke. Blockage can also lead to peripheral artery disease, erectile dysfunction, and a multitude of other problems.

Initial steps leading up to complete blockage can be seen indirectly through high blood pressure. Though there are many contributing factors (stress, diet, etc.) a common cause of high blood pressure is due to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is defined as the narrowing of arteries due to fatty deposits that accumulate on arterial walls, often caused by the build up of plaque on the artery walls. Eating a high-fat western diet, rich in cholesterol, can cause an increase in Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) inside your circulatory system. These LDL particles then begin to accumulate in the media region of your arteries and become oxidized by your own cells. Your body initially tries to clear oxidized LDL in blood vessels by immune cells (macrophages), cause local inflammation, and cause other cells (smooth muscle cells, T cells, etc.) to migrate to the location and help stabilize the region by secreting fibirin. Unfortunately, if there is too much oxidized LDL for them to handle, these cells begin to die, forming an unstable plaque. This plaque protrudes out into your blood vessel and narrows the blood vessels, causing pressure to build up (high blood pressure) and a dull pain (angina). Eventually when this plaque ruptures, platelets begin to clot. This causes either complete blockage of the artery, or the clot gets broken and travels to another artery where it will block and cause damage elsewhere.

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