Today it is understood that inflammation within the arterial wall is a key factor in the progression of atherosclerosis. This process begins in the early teenage years and progresses over decades in genetically susceptible individuals.
The process of fatty deposits in the arteries begins with elevated cholesterol in the bloodstream. Excess cholesterol then moves within the thin lining of the arterial wall. It is here that cholesterol is transformed or "oxidized" to a more damaging form. This oxidized cholesterol then acts as a signal to the immune system to activate systems that bring inflammatory cellsinto the arterial lining.
A vicious cycle is then established wherein this inflammation causes tissue damage in thearteries which creates more inflammation. The net result is the gradual formation of a hump on the inside of the arteries. The hump (called a plaque) consists of cells filled with cholesterol, inflammatory cells and enlarged tissue of the artery itself. This plaque can eventually obstruct the flow of blood inside the arteries. If this occurs in an artery supplying the heart muscle this can lead to a heart attack; while affecting an artery supplying the brain leads to a stroke.
The good news is the progression of inflammation and atherosclerosis can be slowed or even halted by means of lifestyle modification and control of individual risk factors. A heart healthydiet such as the Mediterranean diet naturally lowers inflammation. Adding certain healing spices to this diet will increase the anti inflammatory effect. These include: garlic, onions, scallions, chives, ginger, turmeric, basil, parsley and cinnamon.