Noninvasive methods for assessing early markers of atherosclerosis: the role of body composition and nutrition

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To present the methodology used to assess early atherosclerosis and its application in assessing the impact of body composition and nutrition on the cardiovascular system.

Recent findings

Accumulating evidence supports the use of noninvasive markers of subclinical atherosclerosis, namely carotid intima–media thickness, flow-mediated dilatation of the brachial artery and augmentation index or pulse wave velocity, in the prediction of cardiovascular risk, especially in primary prevention settings. These markers reflect early initiation of the atherogenetic process, as well as the impact of the treatment currently used. Factors like smoking cessation, exercise and a balanced nutrition have a remarkable effect on these markers and consequently on vascular function. It is interesting to note that individual nutrients such as lipids, vitamins, antioxidants, ethanol, caffeine and isoflavones are capable of manipulating vascular function, which is depicted in these markers of atherosclerosis.

Summary

A number of noninvasive markers of early atherosclerosis are currently used in order to detect possible initiation of atherosclerotic procedure. Vascular function is greatly affected by nutrition, which might prove to be an alternative to drug therapy for reversing dysfunction of the vessels.

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