16 March 2018
The heart pumps blood into the arteries to all the organs of the body. It delivers oxygenated blood throughout the body through the arteries.
The arteries are made of three layers
The arteries are made up of three layers: the intima, the media and the adventitia.
The intima is the thin, smooth layer closest to the blood, making it possible for the blood to flow easily. The media is thicker and made of muscle cells. Finally, the adventitia is the external, protective layer.
“Taxi” Proteins ‘’ for cholesterol
Cholesterol is insoluble in the blood. It is transported by proteins which act as “taxis”.
Streaks in the artery
Even at young age, the transport of cholesterol starts to leave streaks on the wall of our arteries. With time and age, these streaks thicken in the walls of our arteries and may form plaques.
Formation of the cholesterol plaques
Plaque formation starts with the deposit of the bad cholesterol on the thin interior layer of the blood vessel, the intima. It is absorbed and stored in the muscular layer of the vessel, the media.
Its presence produces inflammation.
The presence of cholesterol in the media creates inflammation.
It is grabbed by the macrophages, cells known to clean the body. They fill with cholesterol and then become trapped in the wall of the vessel.
One can imagine them as large cells filled with scum. When they die, they release their contents, which create even more inflammation, and then the cycle is repeated.
Yellowish spots in our arteries
The spots give the appearance of yellowish streaks inside the vessels.
The accumulation of these cells and their fatty contents in the media forces the intima to raise.
The yellowish streaks inside the vessel become larger and they generate cholesterol plaques.
The plaque formation process within the vessel walls is called atherosclerosis.
Contributing factors in the development of plaques
Risk factors for the development of plaques include age, male gender, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.
With the accumulation of cholesterol and, over time calcium deposits, the arteries become less flexible.
This also may lead to vessel narrowing and even complete obstruction, which may require special procedures and interventions to improve blood flow to the arteries.
A plaque rupture may lead to serious problems.