Atherogenesis is a process that involves inflammation and accumulation of fatty materials within the walls of arteries. These fatty “streaks” are called atheromas and they are made primarily of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lipids. Over time, atheromas grow and collect minerals such as calcium, macrophage cells and other cellular debris, at which point they are usually called arterial plaques. Plaque growth hardens and clogs arteries, which is referred to as atherosclerosis – a primary risk for heart attack and stroke.
Atherogenic foods are the ones that promote atheromas, are generally rich in cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats and salt.
Salt in a smaller dose is necessary for the body to function properly. But too much salt will draw excess fluid into the blood, and raise blood pressure in people who are salt sensitive. Excess Salt intake has been shown to damage to the lining of the arteries, resulting in atherosclerosis.
(Also read –> How much Sodium should you have in a day?)
Foods like – sugar, processed food, white rice, refined flour should be avoided. Refined Carbs elevate triglycerides level. High triglycerides make the blood thicker, stickier which means that it is more likely to form clots. Limiting simple refined carbs and choosing whole grains like oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta is beneficial for the heart.
Cholesterol is an essential nutrient, but too much intake is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis. The two main types of cholesterol carriers are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). In general, “bad” LDL carries cholesterol from the liver into the bloodstream, whereas “good” HDL collects cholesterol from the blood and carries it back.
Foods high in cholesterol are beef liver, processed meat, fried fast food, egg yolks and butter, often raise blood LDL levels and are considered atherogenic. If one has high cholesterol levels in the blood, intake should be limited.
The metabolism of saturated fatty acids produces by-products that can damage arterial walls and trigger the process of atherogenesis.
Saturated Fats are found in animal-based products, such as – meat, butter, whole milk, dairy products. More saturated fats people get in their diets, higher their risk for developing atherosclerosis.
Trans fats appear to be dangerous, as they raise bad LDL cholesterol, and lower the level of the good HDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils to turn liquid oils into solid fats like margarine and shortenings. They are meant for an alternative of saturated fat with a better shelf life, but they are more harmful than saturated fats.
(Also read –> Health Risk Of Unhealthy Processed Foods)