Some heart health programs aim at reversing atherosclerosis in the arteries, but this may not be a necessary goal.
Preventing atherosclerosis should always be the primary goal. From what we eat to our blood pressure and activity levels, good data shows how to prevent plaque buildup.
Once plaque has built up, it’s more important to stabilize unstable plaque and prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.
If a plaque is stable and the artery is able to dilate appropriately with changing physiologic demands it’s perhaps unnecessary to reverse the size of the plaque.
Achieving Plaque Reversal with a Super Low-Fat Diet
The arteries, as opposed to the veins, are the vessels exposed to higher pressures and, therefore at risk of plaque buildup.
The goal of plaque reversal is often to put an individual on a diet that will decrease the cholesterol so much that the plaque dissolves.
However, such low-fat, low-cholesterol diets are difficult to stick to and could create certain nutritional deficiencies for some.
They can be a great tool for a short period of time to achieve a particular lipid profile. But as a long-term method of dissolving plaque, it’s not sustainable.
Reversing Atherosclerosis in the Arteries
Even if you managed to cut out avocados, nuts, olive oil, and other fat sources, the existing plaque likely won’t just break up and dissolve in the blood.
The buildup on your drain won’t break up no matter how careful you are to avoid putting fat down the drain. Fat particles don’t readily dissolve in water.
The few studies that have shown reversal have achieved this, likely partly from the plaques shrinking and improved dilation of the arteries.
Intravascular ultrasound of atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary arteries isn’t feasible for most individuals but could play a major role in researching plaque reversal.
Stabilizing Instead of Reversing Plaque
As a summary, it’s more important to prevent plaque than reverse it. What about existing atherosclerotic plaque?
For the plaque that is already there it’s important to stabilize it. We don’t want it to break loose and cause a clot which could lead to complete obstruction of the vessel.
Stabilizing means controlling inflammation and helping the plaque remodel into a less brittle structure. Achieving this requires a bit of art because there is no clearly defined path towards preventing plaque rupture.
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