Arteriosclerosis - what causes it and how to prevent it

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Arteriosclerosis is the result of the healing process as a result of the lining of arteries being damaged. The result is a scar over the site of the damage which could cause:

  • Narrowing of the artery (and so impaired blood supply distally). Possible symptoms include angina (heart), intermittent claudication (legs), dementia (brain).
  • Scar rupture with a clot forming on the surfaces which embolises to cause acute blockage downstream (myocardial infarction), acute gangrene (legs), stroke (brain).
  • Weakening of the artery wall - aneurysm
  • Breakage of the arterial wall - stroke

Thus arteriosclerosis is a major cause of disability and death in Western Societies. Indeed, arteriosclerosis is an inevitable result of Western lifestyles with their reliance on a highly refined carbohydrate diet, poor micronutrient status, increasing pollution of the environment including prescription medication, lack of sunshine and exercise, and chronic lack of sleep.

Arteriosclerosis - checking for risk factors

From the patient's medical history (in order of importance)

To diagnose arteriosclerosis

  • Do not wait for the consequences! Do not wait until you have a heart attack or stroke!
  • Can you get fit? If not, this may be because of poor blood supply secondary to arteriosclerosis.
  • Are you at risk? See above factors.
  • Look at the flow in arteries using Doppler techniques.
  • Look at how much calcium is present in arteries - coronary calcium score.
  • Radiographic techniques (invasive) such as angiograms


Try increasing your exercise. If you are unable to do so, then this could point to arterial disease.

Urine tests

  • Sugar and protein - ask for multistix urinalysis.

Blood tests

  • ESR, creatinine protein or plasma viscosity - these indicate inflammation in the blood which may damage arteries.
  • TFTs - hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism are both risk factors for arterial disease.
  • Homocysteine - raised levels are a potent risk factor.
  • Magnesium deficiency - a good indirect test of mitochondrial function. Also see AONM Mitochondrial testing
  • Chromium deficiency.
  • Increased clotting tendency - anticardiolipin antibodies.
  • Serum B12 levels.
  • Antioxidant status - GSHPx (Se), SODase (Cn, Mn, Zn), CoQ10.
  • High uric acid and high gamma GT are both symptoms of poor antioxidant status.
  • Cholesterol and triglycerides - blood should be taken with the patient fasting (no food for 12 hours previously). Raised cholesterol may be a sign of heart disease, not a cause.

I would test for these things routinely. The homocysteine test (see Homocysteine - we should all know our level of) is a bit awkward because the blood has to be centrifuged immediately after it's been taken; otherwise the result is invalidated. Therefore, special arrangements need to be made. I.e. you need to go to a hospital or laboratory where this can be done.

Infections - if the history suggested, I would do breath testing for helicobacter pylori (see Helicobacter Pylori breath test), ELIZA antibodies for chlamydia.

Magnesium, B vitamins, antioxidant status, EFAs

  • Magnesium deficiency is a common cause of arterial disease. Treatment of such with intravenous magnesium is a very powerful treatment. See the science in Dr Browne's paper on i.v.i. magnesium in the Journal of Nutritional Medicine
  • B vitamin deficiency (especially thiamine). Thiamine deficiency alone can cause heart failure, common in heavy drinkers.
  • Antioxidant deficiency (vitamins A, E, C and selenium)
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency.

These things can all be tested for, but I would not do the tests routinely as long as my patient was taking nutritional supplements regularly - ie a multivitamin, multimineral, vitamin C and essential fatty acids. If you won't take the supplements, do the tests to convince yourself that you should take the supplements! See Nutritional Supplements To my mind, this is a far better way of spending your money than on medical insurance!

Apolipoprotein A - this is known to be a risk factor, but no-one is very sure how to treat it; so there's not much point in measuring it.

Pollution either from toxins such as:

  • Pesticides - measure fat pesticide levels. This will pick up a range of POPs (persistent organic pollutants) such as organophosphates, organochlorines, fire retardants etc. OR DNA adducts.
  • Heavy metals - no simple test because these are often sequestered away in tissues. See Smart Nutrition Hair Mineral Analysis Test and Comprehensive Urine element Profile. See the section below for more detailed comment on Hair Mineral Analysis.
  • Fine dusts (PM2.5 and under) from polluting industry such as power stations, manufacturing industry - indeed, anything with a chimney is a potential risk. At present, it would be expensive for industry to clean up its act; so the facts are either fudged or covered up. There are no tests for dusts.

Detailed Comment on Hair Mineral Analysis

This test measures the levels in hair of the following trace elements and toxic metals: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, chromium, manganese, selenium, nickel, cobalt, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminium.

  • If there are raised levels of toxic minerals then there probably is a toxicity problem.
  • However normal or low levels of toxic minerals does not exclude a toxicity problem. Some people are poor detoxifiers and do not dump heavy metals in hair - they get dumped elsewhere in the body. In a study of autistic children, they were found to have lower levels of mercury in the hair compared to controls! The researchers could not understand this until they realised they were dumping the mercury in their brains instead!
  • The zinc level can be misleading. A low zinc probably means zinc deficiency. A normal zinc may be due to a very low zinc which then makes the hair grow slowly. This slow growth has the effect of concentrating minerals in the hair to give falsely high readings.
  • A high copper suggests inflammation and always needs investigating further. It is often high with the Pill and HRT - this is one of the tests which makes me worry about the Pill and HRT!
  • High nickel (together with high leVels of any metals) also means nickel sensitivity (to jewelry, watches, zips etc)
  • Chromium, cobalt, manganese and selenium levels are probably accurate.
  • I would not take much notice of abnormal calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium or sodium results.
  • Low iron needs further investigation with a ferritin serum test.

However, if all the essential minerals are low (excluding the toxics) I would think of poor nutrition or malabsorption of foods. See Malabsorption - failure to get the goodness from food.

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