Clogged arteries can bring about many heart issues and there is no quick way to melt away this problem. However, changes in one’s lifestyle can decrease or even stop the accumulation of plaque, the substance responsible for clogging blood vessels. This would entail better diet choices, exercise, and abstain from unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. Following strictly these changes will improve heart health.
When the blockages in arteries become serious, medical procedures, specifically surgery, may be required to remove them. In less serious cases, doctors may prescribe medications such as aspirin or cholesterol-reducing drugs.
What are Clogged Arteries?
Plaque causes clogged arteries and is composed mainly of cholesterol, waste from body cells, and calcium. The substance can stick to the wall of blood vessels, causing them to get narrower. This leads to a condition called atherosclerosis.
When arteries become clogged because of plaque accumulation, blood is inhibited from reaching the various parts of the body. This condition puts a person at risk of heart-related diseases. Fortunately, there are many ways that can prevent the build-up of plaque and clogged arteries. Medical treatments are available, but these are invasive. Prevention is the best treatment because removing plaque is harder than preventing it from accumulating.
What are the Causes of Clogged Arteries?
Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the various parts of the body. Healthy arteries are characterized by smooth inner walls, making the blood flow much easier. When invasive plaque builds up in the inner walls, this will result to clogged arteries. Since plaque makes the arteries narrower, the blood flow is reduced. In many cases, the blood vessels are blocked altogether.
Strokes, heart attacks, and death can happen because of clogged arteries. Everybody should then be aware of the dangers of blockage caused by the accumulation of plaque on the interior walls of arteries. There are many treatment strategies that can prevent such arterial clogs. When there is a build-up of plaque in arteries, the cells in the blood vessel’s linings will respond by multiplying and secreting additional substances which can worsen the already bad state of the clogged arteries.
When plaque deposits accumulate, this will lead to clogged arteries, where they start to narrow and become hard. Experts are still in the dark as to how this condition starts but many believe the process may be the result of the damage done on the inner linings of arterial walls. The damage can be the result of the following:
- High levels of “bad” cholesterol and low levels of “good” cholesterol. One major contributor to arterial plaque accumulation is the high level of “bad” cholesterol, otherwise known as low-density lipoproteins in the blood. The body also has levels of “good” cholesterol, otherwise known as high-density lipoproteins which can remove, to an extent, the “bad” cholesterol accumulated in the plaque in already clogged arteries.
- High blood pressure. The accumulation of plaque can be hastened for those with high blood pressure. Worse, it also quickens the hardening of the clogged arteries.
- Cigarette smoke. Studies have shown that cigarette smoke may also hasten the rate of clogged arteries especially in the legs, aorta, and the heart.
- Diabetes. The condition of elevated blood sugar can be a big culprit in the formation of plaque. Although it has its effects on diabetics, those with lesser levels of blood sugar can also be at risk for plaque formation as have been observed in those with metabolic syndromes.
- Stress, family history, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity. These are other factors that can influence plaque formation in arteries. Plaque can develop early in childhood and the clogging can develop in the individual’s later years.
The Risks of Clogged Arteries
The clogged arteries can occur in any body part. People often think that only the heart is exposed to the risk. That, of course, is partly true. Here are medical conditions attributed to clogged arteries:
- Coronary artery disease. This happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry the blood to the heart. Symptoms of coronary heart disease can include shortness of breath and chest pains. If not checked, this can eventually result in heart attacks which may lead to death.
- Carotid artery disease. A person’s carotid arteries are located on each side of the neck and are responsible for supplying oxygen to the brain. When these are blocked because of plaque accumulation, it can lead to strokes.
- Peripheral artery disease. The build-up of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to the legs will diminish the amount of oxygen that’s delivered. This reduction can cause an individual to experience numbness, pain or even some serious infections of the feet and legs.
The Common Warning Signs and Symptoms of Clogged Arteries
If people don’t pay much heed to plaque accumulation, arterial blockages can start even in their 20s. The accumulation is gradual, and the negative effects can occur later in life. Arteries are responsible for bringing life-sustaining nutrients and oxygen from the heart to all other body parts. Therefore, it’s important to keep them from blockages as they are essential in the maintenance of a body that’s healthy.
Unfortunately, nowadays, our foods are composed mainly of meats, dairy products, processed foods, and more. All these produce fatty streaks when they enter our bodies which will ultimately form plaques which will clog the flow of blood. Coronary heart diseases are caused by the blockage of the arteries which lead to the heart. The consequence is chest pains that can lead to heart attacks and other heart-related diseases.
Do take note that the heart arteries are not the only ones affected by plaque. Any arteries are susceptible to the dangers of plaque accumulation. The clogging of arteries can affect any body part, each leading to varying signs and symptoms and this should serve as an early warning for the occurrence of some cardiovascular disease. Here are the most common ways that clogged arteries can reveal themselves throughout the whole body:
- Pain in the lower back. All the arteries located in the lower back are usually the first ones where plaque accumulation can occur and manifest symptoms of blockages. A blockage will reduce the amount of blood that flows to the back and this can make the disks which protect the vertebrae a lot weaker. This will cause pinched nerves as well as herniated disks, which can be painful. Based on studies, those who experience chronic back pains are most likely to have lumbar arteries which are clogged with plaque.
- Erectile dysfunction. In most cases with men, this condition is one of the early symptoms of blocked arteries. The reduction of blood flow in the penis will result in sexual dysfunction. Recent studies have recommended that men who experience erectile dysfunction should be tested for heart disease. This can save millions of lives from strokes or heart attacks.
- Stroke. When the arteries that lead to the brain, specifically the carotid arteries, are subjected to plaque accumulation, many parts of the brain will be deprived of the necessary nutrients and oxygen. The absence of oxygen will cause brain cells to die. This condition is called a thrombotic stroke.
It’s very difficult to treat arterial blockages. Medications may be introduced to treat isolated symptoms in one area but there is a greater underlying problem involved. The most effective treatment to combat clogged arteries will not depend on medications but on the foods, we eat. Thriving on plant-based diets, which are free from cholesterol and are low in fats, have already been proven to reduce and reverse clogged arteries and, consequently, improve the flow of blood.
Silent Signs that You May Be Suffering from Clogged Arteries
One of the best ways to prevent heart diseases is the early detection of the disease. Once a person is detected to have heart problems, medical therapies and a change in lifestyle should immediately start as such can deny or delay heart attacks from happening. Many people may be surprised to learn that several clues could be symptoms of an underlying heart problem. Read and learn about some:
- Baldness could be an indication of clogged arteries. Studies have been conducted to find out if there is a relation between clogged arteries and baldness. It was found that severe baldness, especially at the crown, could be an indication of clogged arteries and worse, this could apply to any age. Another study did show that even moderate baldness can double the risks of heart attacks in both men and women. If you think you’re losing hair too fast, have yourself tested for any heart problems.
- Ear creases can also be another indication. This indeed is one of the weirder clues of clogged arteries. The crease usually occurs at an angle running diagonally from earlobe’s lower edge to the canal. This clue has been considered for decades as it has been mentioned in medical reports in the past. The presence of such creases may be an indication of inadequate circulation, including the arteries of the heart.
- Calf pain felt while walking may indicate clogged arteries. We have earlier mentioned that clogged arteries can cause atherosclerosis. A condition called claudication happens when the legs arteries have been clogged, causing a person to limp. This condition is predominant among smokers. When this occurs, consult medical professionals immediately. Doctors will start a simple procedure of measuring leg blood flow and blood pressure to determine if there is poor circulation.
Early diagnosis is essential as there are a lot of medical and dietary treatments which can help reverse the problem. People should be serious about this issue as it can save their lives. The usual advice of doctors is to eat more foods which are plant-based and less of animal products. Walking is a good exercise to start patients off. If diet and exercise are introduced, calf pain should be reduced or resolved within just a few weeks and hopefully will not recur.
How to Prevent Clogged Arteries
You will only need two things to help prevent the occurrence of clogged arteries: a healthy diet and regular exercise. These two will not just prevent clogging but also make the person feel better over time. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help prevent the clogging of arteries:
- Stay away from trans fats. These are foods that help plaque formation in the arteries. Limit the intake of foods which are high in trans fats and saturated fats. Both contain high LDL cholesterol levels, a main ingredient of plaque. Saturated fats can also affect the health of the heart, although this is still under study. These fats are found mostly in animal products which includes meat and dairy. Some oils like palm and coconut may also contain saturated fats.
- Eat more unsaturated fats. The best sources of these are avocados, fatty fish, and nuts. Unsaturated fats are “good” fats and have elevated levels of HDL cholesterol. These help in taking LDL cholesterol from the arteries before they are converted into plaque. Instead of saturated fats or trans fats, take unsaturated fats to improve good cholesterol in the blood.
- Drinking herbal tea. Substitute those sugary beverages with tea. Drink tea whether it be black, green, oolong, ginger, and more. They are healthy alternatives that will benefit the heart. The extracts found in green tea may help in lowering LDL cholesterol without affecting the HDL cholesterol.
Drinking ginger tea or its supplements can enhance significant markers in cardiovascular health. This has been backed-up by research studies. Take ginger in its various forms, as a brew, a tea or a supplement.
- Regular exercise. Aside from many more negatives, obesity is also a health risk factor for the accumulation of plaque and eventual heart disease. What is needed to get obesity out of the equation is a healthy diet, exercise, a lot of patience, and dedication. Losing weight will reduce heart problems.
For strengthening the heart, do cardiovascular exercises regularly. Good for the heart, the body and can prevent plaque formation. A good workout usually takes about half an hour to an hour of exercises. This will raise heart rate and strengthen it. Consult with the doctor on what exercises are most beneficial and the decision is generally based on the individual’s lifestyle factor.
- Other practical ways. Quit smoking since it’s a disgusting and unhealthy habit and is a huge risk to heart health. It can damage arteries and might encourage fatty deposits to become larger and grow faster.
Reducing stress is also important. Psychological stresses can cause negative reactions in the body. Learn and apply some techniques for stress reduction to control stress like meditation, yoga or even breathing exercises which can help people relax after those very busy days.
At some point, prevention methods may not work anymore, and medical interventions may be required to try and ease the effects of clogged arteries. Medications may be introduced to lower the LDL cholesterol levels coupled with strict diet changes. But these actions are more of an extra help instead of a solution.
Surgical treatments may be recommended for severe clogged cases. This entail inserting a tube inside the artery to remove the plaque and leaving a stent to give the artery wall support for increased blood flow. In the most severe cases, it may be required to perform a surgery known as a heart bypass.