Cigarette smokers, arteries and omega-3

 
 
 

The thin membrane that delimits the inside of the heart and blood vessels is named vascular endothelium; its cells release substances that control relaxation and contraction of blood vessels, and enzymes that control blood clotting, immune function and platelet adhesion (platelet are tiny disk-shaped elements in the blood that assist in blood clotting by adhering to other platelets and to damaged epithelium). The malfunction of the endothelium is a (reversible) precursor of arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, which are chronic and progressive disorders of the blood vessels, characterised by:

  • Arteriosclerosis: plaque formation. Plaque is mainly made of cholesterol; it grows over years, slowly blocking the blood’s flow through an artery in the heart, brain, pelvis, legs, arms or kidneys. Furthermore, they can suddenly rupture and form blood clots that can block the artery, blocking the flow of blood (this is to say, stopping the oxygen supply).
  • Atherosclerosis: an abnormal thickening and hardening of the arterial walls with resulting loss of elasticity.

There are several factors associated with the vascular endothelium malfunction, including the following: high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Smoking greatly aggravates and speeds up the growth of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries (two arteries that arise from the aorta and supply the tissues of the heart), the aorta and the arteries of the legs.

In cigarette smokers, endothelial malfunction can be improved by supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

 

Bibliography

 
 

Omega-3 and secondhand smoke

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