Arteriosclerosis is one of the most common diseases of the blood vessels. It refers to a thickening of the walls of the arteries due to the presence of calcium or lime. It has become a common ailment in modern times, accounting for much of the disability and high death rate among older people.
Arteriosclerosis is usually preceded by atherosclerosis, a kind of degeneration or softening of the inner lining of the blood vessel walls. The most risky places for such degeneration are the coronary vessels of the heart and the arteries leading to the brain. Arteriosclerosis results in the loss of elasticity of the blood vessels, with a narrowing of the smaller arteries, which interferes with the free circulation of the blood. These changes may gradually extend to capillaries and veins.
Arteriosclerosis is more frequent in men than women, especially in the younger age group. It has been estimated that 40 per cent of all men over 40 years of age have a significant degree of obstruction of their coronary arteries and this can lead to a heart attack at any time.
The symptoms of arteriosclerosis vary with the arteries involved. Signs of inadequate blood supply generally appear first in the legs. There may be numbness and coldness in the feet and cramps and pains in the legs even after light exercise. If the coronary arteries are involved, the patient may have sharp pains, characteristic of angina pectoris. When arteries leading to the brain are involved, the vessel may burst, causing haemorrhage in the brain tissues. A cerebral vascular stroke, with partial or complete paralysis of one side of the body may result, if there is blockage with a blood clot. It may also lead to loss of memory and a confused state of mind in elderly people. If arteries leading to the kidneys are involved, the patient may suffer from high blood pressure and kidney disorders.
The most important cause of arteriosclerosis is excessive intake of white sugar, refined foods and a diet high in fat, i.e. rich in cholesterol. A sedentary life and ex- cesses of all kinds are the major contributing causes. Hardening of the arteries may also be caused by other diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, rheumatism, Bright’s disease, malaria and syphillis. Emotional stress also plays an important part, and heart attacks are more common during periods of mental and emotional disturbances, particularly in those engaged in sedentary occupations. Heredity also plays its role and this disease runs in families.
If the causes of arteriosclerosis are known, remedial action should be taken promptly to remove them. To begin with, the patient should resort to a short juice fast for five to seven days. All available fresh, raw vegetable and fruit juices in season may be taken. Grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice and juices of green vegetables are specially beneficial. A warm water enema should be used daily to cleanse the bowels during the period of fasting.
After the juice fast, patient should follow a diet made up of the three basic food groups, namely, seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits, with emphasis on raw foods. Plenty of raw and sprouted seeds and nuts should be used. Cold pressed vegetable oils, particularly safflower oil, flax seed oil and olive oil should be used regularly. Further short fasts on juices may be undertaken at intervals of three months or so, depending on the progress being made.
The patient should take several small meals instead of a few large ones. He should avoid all hydrogenerated fats and an excess of saturated fats, such as butter, cream, ghee and animal fat. He should also avoid meat, salt and all refined and processed foods, condiments, sauces, pickles, strong tea, coffee, white sugar, white flour, and all products made with them. Foods cooked in aluminium and copper utensils should not be taken, as toxic metals entering the body are known to be deposited on the walls of the aorta and the arteries. Smoking, if habitual, should be given up as smoking constricts the arteries and aggravates the condition.
Recent investigations have shown that garlic and onions have a preventive effect on the development of arteriosclerosis. Vitamin C has also proved beneficial as it helps in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids.
The patient should undertake plenty of outdoor exercise and eliminate all mental stress and worries. Warm baths or carefully graduated cold baths are helpful. Prolonged neutral immersion baths at bed time on alternate days are also beneficial.