A considerable amount of evidence indicates that atherosclerosis is caused by chronic inflammation, which often begins very early in life.
The dispute among experts is what causes the inflammation. One theory holds that bacteria and viruses may cause this inflammation. In addition, several studies have found a strong relationship between a common bacterium causing gum disease and atherosclerosis. In fact, the same bacterium has been cultured from the crud, or plaque, seen in arteries.
It is the battle between the bacteria/viruses and the immune system, which is in perpetual action to destroy the invaders, that begins the process of atherosclerosis.
When a bacterium or virus invades the body, the immune system sends in its special cells to kill the invaders. One team of special cells, macrophages, does this by releasing a burst of free radicals that destroy the germs long before cholesterol makes its appearance.
As with any infection, especially one that continues for decades, the body tries to seal off the infection. It does this by building a fibrous wall around the battle zone. Over time, this wall can also contain calcium deposits, and as this battle progresses, LDL cholesterol enters the injured blood vessel wall and oxidizes.
The oxidized LDL cholesterol becomes a very irritating substance, causing inflammation.
White blood cells attempt to rid the body of the cholesterol by gobbling it up like a Pac-Man, but some of these cells become so stuffed with the oxidized cholesterol that they burst, adding to the inflammation.
Immune cells then secrete a number of caustic chemicals that cause intense inflammation. Because the immune cells cannot rid the area of the microorganisms, the immune attack continues over decades.
Lead, mercury, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and fluoride can also cause the same set of inflammatory reactions in blood vessels.