Atherosclerosis is named as such because it happens primarily in arteries and does not occur in veins. Interestingly, one of the only times it is seen in a vein is when a vein has been used as an artery for a coronary bypass. The prevailing theory in medicine is that high cholesterol, especially of the LDL variety, is what causes plaque build-up on the lining of an artery. Since cholesterol is distributed evenly throughout the blood, in both veins and arteries, and it is supposedly what causes arterial plaque, you would think that we would see atherosclerosis evenly in both. You would also think we would see atherosclerosis more evenly distributed in arteries as well. Since neither of these happen, there must be more to the story. Turns out elevated cholesterol is not the driving aspect of atherosclerosis.
In my blog titled “Why LDL May Go Up on a Ketogenic/Carnivore Diet”, I discuss how higher cholesterol has actually been shown to have benefits when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I will refer you there for that discussion. If it’s not cholesterol that clogs arteries, then what is it? And why do we only see it in arteries? Well, while LDL in the blood does not drive the formation of atherosclerosis, the answer to what does still lies within the blood.
Of the components that make up our blood, about half of it is plasma. Nearly all of that plasma is actually water. This is very important because it turns out water has some pretty interesting properties given the right circumstances. Understanding these properties will help us understand the root of what causes atherosclerosis.
Dr. Gerald Pollack at the University of Washington has been studying water for a long time. He has found that it behaves unlike any other liquid. Its’ most biologically relevant behavior is that it has the ability to hold energy. (r) We have all been taught that H2O can be found in three phases; solid, liquid, and gas, or ice, water, and steam. But Pollack has found that water can exist in a 4th phase that is between the solid and liquid phase. (r) The ability of it to do this relies on the water being supplied enough energy and it being next to the right surface. It has been called structured water, exclusion zone (EZ) water, or 4th phase water. For our discussion it is most relevant to call it EZ water and you will see why.
Dr. Pollack and his team have found that when you put water next to a hydrophilic (water loving) surface and it is given an energy source (like radiant energy from infrared light), it does some interesting things. The H2O water molecules split into two molecules; a molecule comprised of one oxygen and one hydrogen and a molecule of hydrogen alone. The molecule of oxygen/hydrogen goes next to the hydrophilic surface and combines with other oxygen/hydrogen molecules and they start to build layers of gel-like water. These layers then stack up tightly next to the hydrophilic surface and form a zone of EZ water.
Since the oxygen in the oxygen/hydrogen is larger and has a negative charge, the collective gel-like layers become net negatively charged. The leftover hydrogens are push to an area next to the formed EZ water. This is illustrated in the figure below.
This is relevant to our discussion because in his book, The 4th Phase of Water, Dr. Pollack says, “We also saw exclusion zones next to natural biological surfaces; they included vascular endothelia, regions of plant roots, and muscle.” (r) So when water, of which blood is almost half, is next to a natural biological surface that is shaped like a tube, like a blood vessel, you could imagine that the EZ water forms around the entire lining of the tube. Here is the scene in our blood vessels, we have a hydrophilic surface in the shape of a tube with EZ water lining the tube and the excess hydrogens in the middle of the tube. The more build-up of EZ water the more hydrogens end up in the center of the tube.
Now, there is major significance regarding the fact that we now have a very negatively charged area and a very positively charged are in this environment, but that is for another discussion as it is more relevant to another concept about the cardiovascular system that is best left for a future blog post. As far as atherosclerosis goes, we are much more concerned with the mere formation of the EZ water.
There is a reason that Pollack and his team named this water “Exclusion Zone” water. As you may be able to guess, it is because the nature of how the EZ water forms, the layers are a little off set from each other, it excludes everything that is not EZ water from the area the EZ forms in. Pollack says, “Even red blood cells, several strains of bacteria, and ordinary dirt particles scraped from outside our laboratory were excluded. The protein albumin was excluded.” The ability of this EZ water to exclude everything else present in the blood means that it serves as sort of a protective barrier between the blood and our blood vessel lining, the endothelia.
What this means is that if we have a healthy, intact EZ water layer in our arteries that nothing can get to the artery wall to damage it. Therefore, even if cholesterol caused atherosclerosis, which it doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter if you had high LDL, VLDL, small dense molecules, or ApoB; nothing can get through. (This does beg the question of how the endothelial cells get nutrients. The answer is that they rely on diffusion from interstitial fluid and their own network of capillaries called the vasa vasorum) This EZ water protective layer sounds pretty good. You’re probably wondering how you can make sure you maintain that layer. Pollack found the answer in his lab.
As I mentioned before, this EZ water forms when water holds enough energy. Pollack found that water can become energized in many ways. The best way was radiant light. He says, “Ultraviolet was least effective, visible light more effective, and infrared the most effective, particularly at 3000 nm…..Later we realized that the 3000 nm wavelength is the one most strongly absorbed by water.” Therefore, exposure to light will help us build EZ water in our bodies. This is why the sun feels so good and infrared saunas (click here and use code DRHUSSEY for a discount on the purchase of a sauna) have been shown to have benefits to cardiovascular health. (r,r) There were other ways that Pollack found you could energize water as well. Direct contact with the Earth (grounding) would do it, and vortexing, or swirling, the water in the presence of oxygen would also energize it. (Pollack has also found that this EZ water is the type of water that is present in cells, which provides a whole new framework for the workings of a cell)
If there are ways we can increase the health and quantity of our EZ water you can imagine that there are things that can decrease it as well. One of these ways would be not doing enough activities that expose us to the energy needed to energize our blood, so basically not spending time outdoors in direct contact with nature or not getting enough infrared light exposure. But also increased oxidative stress can break it down. I have discussed oxidative stress in other posts (here), but remember they are an excess of free radicals in the body that damage tissues. We get these excess free radicals from relying on carbohydrates for fuel, excess exposure to toxins, high blood sugars, and inflammation.
Also, remember that free radicals have and unpaired electron and they really want to be paired. They will steal an electron from anywhere they can find one, including from a tissue causing damage. Our coveted EZ water is a very negatively charged and therefore has many electrons ripe for the taking. If we are in a chronic state of oxidative stress we can end up breaking down all our EZ water in certain areas leaving the blood vessel exposed. The inflammatory and oxidatively stressed environment that caused the breakdown of the EZ water is now allowed to wreak havoc on our arteries. (r) I feel that because the endothelia of the blood vessels has evolved with this EZ water barrier for protection it does not have as much cellular defense as other cells may and is more vulnerable to damage.
When this direct damage to the endothelia happens, the body is forced to respond so that the artery itself does not rupture and form a plaque. The body uses cholesterol and various minerals to sort of patch up these areas of damaged endothelia. I think the body uses whatever it can find because even the plant toxin oxalate, which is found in high amounts in almonds, sweet potatoes, spinach, and chocolate, and which the body has no real use for, has been found in atherosclerotic lesions. (r) But it is important to remember that things found in the lesion are not what cause the plaque, they are just what the body uses to repair the damage that was already there. Atherosclerotic lesions can grow as more damage occurs and as various molecules float by and get stuck on the already formed plaque. In my opinion this is the main, but maybe not the only way, atherosclerosis forms.
Ok, now on to the question at hand. All that was the long-winded background info we needed to finally tell us why we only see atherosclerosis in arteries. By nature, the arteries are under more pressure. This means that when we do have an increase in oxidative stress those free radical molecules are being pushed up against the EZ water lining the arteries more than it is in the veins. This is increasing the chances that those free radicals will steal an electron from the EZ layer and break it down. As for why we don’t see atherosclerosis evenly distributed in arteries, it is because there are areas of arteries that are under more pressure than others. These areas include where arteries bifurcate, or split, as well as when the blood is pressed up against the outer artery walls going around curves in the artery. (r) We also see lots of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries. This makes sense considering they are under a lot of pressure from being directly on the walls of the heart as it expands and contracts all day long. Regardless, stenosis of a coronary artery does not necessarily cause a heart attack, as I have discussed in other posts (here) and my heart course (here).
So, there you have it. That’s what causes atherosclerosis and why we see it in the particular patterns that we do. There were a few concepts, such as the greater significance of the formation of EZ water on artery walls and the discussion of why atherosclerosis, while not good to have, is not necessarily the cause of heart attacks, that I chose not to elaborate on for the sake of keeping the post short. There is more on those ideas in my heart course and new book (both linked below).
Stay healthy out there!
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