Cardiovascular Diseases are really disorders in the lining of the vessels. Your vessels are lined with a type of tissue called the Endothelium. It is a single layer of cells that act as a wall with thousands of little gates called receptors that allow certain chemicals in to affect the smooth muscle layer beneath it. If this protective wall gets damaged or the gates get stuck open, we are going to have a problem. Inflammation from a variety of different sources that we’ll be covering in more detail can cause a blister under the single-cell lining, bulging it into the flow of the blood vessel, that can occlude the lumen of the capillary and block blood flow.
Cholesterol, manufactured by the liver, is used for making hormones and other things, but it is also used by your body as a “Band-Aid” over these inflammatory blisters under the vessel walls. Initially, researchers just saw the cholesterol patch and assumed it was a clump of excess fat clumped onto the vessel lining. Not so. But, since our friendly pharmaceutical company has a drug that can readily lower cholesterol levels, why let a silly thing like the TRUTH be told?! Let’s just make everyone believe (even the millions of doctors who haven’t bothered to read a research paper since they graduated) that the problem lies in cholesterol.
So, what is the real problem behind Cardio-Vascular Disease (CVD). Remember, cholesterol isn’t the ‘bad guy’ it’s made out to be, but what IS the problem with CVD?
First we need to understand some anatomy. Again, your vessels are lined with a single-cell layer of tissue called endothelium; under this endothelial layer is a smooth muscle layer that is responsible for contracting (raising blood pressure in times of needed blood flow) and relaxation (lowering and normalizing blood pressure). This endothelial lining is really the KEY; it is the barrier, the wall that allows, both willingly and not, changes in the muscle tone as well as invasions into the delicate space underneath.
All CVD starts with endothelial disease (ED). Think of the endothelial cell layer as a fence with hundreds of gates called receptors. These gates are opened with specific chemical keys that change the function of the smooth muscle layer behind the fence and can even change the shape of the fence. Under normal conditions, chemicals released by the brain and other organs and glands can knock on the gates looking for permission to enter. For instance, a sympathetic nervous system response in the brain to a perceived stress causes the release of a chemical that will enter a gate in the endothelial fence to cause the smooth muscle layer to contract and narrow the lumen of the vessel. This increases the speed of blood flow and increases the blood pressure so you can run away from the danger. It is a normal response, but like any normal response, we can get ‘stuck’ in an ‘on’ position from chronic stress or inflammation in the brain that makes the chemical.
There are really an endless number of possible insults that could ‘breach the gates’ of the endothelial wall. Chemical toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, food additives, flavorings, colorings, infections, and endotoxins are just a few of the things that can break the gates and cause damage to the endothelial layer and/or the muscles and tissue underneath. You may have heard about the damage that Homocysteine, glucose, or oxidized LDL cause, but by far, the worst culprit for damage is infection.
Subclinical (silent) infections are the number one ‘bad guy’ causing ED which leads to CVD. “Subclinical” means the patient doesn’t know they have it! It’s a silent disorder that can cause mild, insidious vasculature damage for years until the victim has symptoms of angina or just a cardiac event.
I know this is a lot of info so I’ll sum this up:
1. CVD really starts with damage to the endothelial layer – the single-celled barrier that lines the vessels.
2. If the endothelial layer is ‘breached’, several bad things can occur that set the victim up for endothelial disease (ED).
3. Many possible sources of endothelial damage exist due to poor diets, environmental exposure to toxins, and ubiquitous infectious organisms but subclinical infections (unknown to the patient) is the most common and least diagnosed cause of ED.
ED is always the start of CVD and usually never addressed by the cardiologist. Medications can lower blood pressure, decrease plaque production, decrease cholesterol levels but do NOTHING to treat the cause of ED that is behind the CVD. This episode is already getting too long so we’ll dig into the reactions to ED next episode and then get into testing and treatment of causes as we continue.
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