The other day my dad went to see his doctor. My dad was scheduled to
receive results from his latest blood test, but they didn’t turn out as
he had hoped. The doctor told my dad that he had high cholesterol. A
previous test had revealed he also had high blood pressure. High
cholesterol and high blood pressure are contributors toward clogged arteries.
Your arteries are blood vessels responsible for the transportation of
oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A normal
artery will be strong, flexible, and elastic. On the other hand,
progressive clogging of the arteries is a serious condition called atherosclerosis. It is the major cause of cardiovascular disease, which includes peripheral vascular disease, strokes, and heart attacks.[1-3]
In the U.S., cardiovascular disease is considered the leading cause of death,
claiming approximately 600,000 lives every year. It is also known as
a silent killer since the condition does not cause any symptoms. That
is until the problem becomes more severe.
Symptoms of Blocked Arteries
The symptoms of clogged arteries likely depend on the type of arteries being affected.
- Carotid arteries: When you have clogged arteries
in your brain, it is a condition called carotid artery disease. Plaque
will block or narrow the carotid arteries, and signs of a stroke may be
present. Symptoms include breathing problems, sudden weakness,
confusion, severe headaches, loss of consciousness, blurry vision, trouble with speech, paralysis, trouble walking,dizziness, unexplained falls, and loss of coordination or balance.
Coronary arteries: When the arteries in the heart are clogged, it is called coronary heart disease, or CHD.
In this case, plaque will block or narrow the coronary arteries when
the heart muscle fails to get enough blood. As a result, chest pain,
known as angina will occur. It feels like pressure is
squeezing your chest, but you may also feel it in your jaw, neck, arms,
shoulders, or back. Angina also sometimes feels like indigestion.
Emotional stress will also often trigger angina. Other CHD symptoms
include heartbeat problems and shortness of breath.
Renal arteries: Chronic kidney disease will develop
from clogged renal arteries in the kidneys. Over time, chronic kidney
disease can slowly impair kidney function. There are no symptoms early
in kidney disease; however, as the condition worsens, it can lead to
loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, concentration problems, numbness or
itchiness, and swelling in the feet or hands. Other symptoms include
kidney failure and high blood pressure.
Peripheral arteries: Peripheral arterial disease will
result from plaque buildup in the arms, legs, and pelvis. These arteries
are known as peripheral arteries, and if they are blocked or narrowed,
you may experience pain or numbness. On occasion, there are also
What Causes Artery Blockage?
Atherosclerosis is often referred to as the hardening, thickening,
and narrowing of the arteries. A thin layer of endothelial cells that
help keep the inside of your arteries smooth and toned lines your
arteries. This process allows your blood to keep flowing.
However, several factors will damage the endothelial cells, including
platelet cells, increased homocysteine levels, and free radicals from
toxins and antioxidant deficiency. Also, vitamin C deficiency and
homocysteine will damage the arteries from degradation of a gel-like
substance called the ground substance. It is found between the cells and
helps maintain the integrity of the epithelial cell barrier.
The plaque will accumulate when various substances are unable to
migrate out of the atherosclerotic lesion. These substances include fat,
calcium, toxic metals, cellular waste, and cholesterol such as LDL
(low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. A material involved in blood
clotting called fibrin is also accumulated when arteries are clogged.
While the exact cause of clogged arteries is a mystery, evidence
shows that atherosclerosis is a complex and slow condition that may
begin in childhood and develop as you get older. Certain factors may
damage your arteries’ inner layers, including smoking, high blood
pressure, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Other contributing factors of atherosclerosis include lack of
exercise, being overweight, a type-A personality, heavy metal exposure,
elevated triglycerides, and chronic inflammation from diseases,
infections, lupus, or arthritis.
High cholesterol and fats in the blood are also possible causes of
atherosclerosis. On rare occasions, genetics may also play a factor with
elevated production of cholesterol associated with atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis can also be caused by oxidative stress through
depletion of vitamin C or other antioxidants. Nutrient deficiencies or
imbalances may also lead to atherosclerosis. They may include magnesium,
potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and methyl donators. Dietary factors
also include a diet high in sugar, processed starches, and damaged fats
from overheating oils.[1,5,6]
Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins
drugs, or beta-blockers that lower blood pressure. These will help slow
the progression of plaque buildup (not without their serious side effects). However, there are also plenty of well-researched foods that can prevent clogged arteries naturally instead:
1. Curcumin (in Turmeric)
Turmeric is a popular spice used in Indian and Ayurvedic cooking, but
its true benefit comes from one active ingredient. The primary
polyphenol in turmeric called curcumin has long been known for its
cardioprotective effects. Turmeric extract is thought to reduce LDL
cholesterol and the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
In a 2011 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research,
researchers found that turmeric could reduce cholesterol and suppress
early atherosclerotic lesions better than the cholesterol-lowering drug
lovastatin. Also, a 2006 study on mice suggested that curcumin can
help prevent artery damage associated with carotid artery blockage.
Garlic is also considered one of the better foods that support your
arteries. Studies have found that garlic can help prevent heart disease,
lower blood pressure, and slow down atherosclerosis. In a study
published in the journal Atherosclerosis in 1999, researchers found that garlic could prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
A review published in the journal Nutrition in 1997 found
that clinical trials on garlic had positive effects in the prevention
and treatment of atherosclerosis. Another study from 1999 also found
that garlic can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by more than
50%. Garlic is thought to help against strokes and heart attacks
since garlic acts as a blood thinner.
Ginger has incredible anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. Ginger contains heart-protective compounds like shogaols and gingerols, which can effectively prevent plaque buildup by reducing total cholesterol. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition
in 2000, researchers found that ginger extract could reduce aortic
atherosclerotic lesion areas, cholesterol and triglycerides in the
blood, LDL-linked fat peroxides, and LDL aggregation.
4. Cayenne pepper
Something spicy can also help support your arteries. The compound capsaicin
found in cayenne pepper can help reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Cayenne pepper can also lower your risk of stroke and heart attack, and
improve blood circulation. Also, highly-active antiretroviral therapy
(HAART) with HIV protease inhibitor ritonavir is associated
with accelerating atherosclerosis and pulmonary artery hypertension. A
study published in 2009 found that capsaicin could help prevent
pulmonary and vascular complications associated with HAART drugs.
Adding lemon juice in your morning water
is a healthy habit and good for your heart. Lemon is known to reduce
blood cholesterol levels, and it helps the arteries by preventing
oxidative damage. Lemons are also a great source of the potent
antioxidant vitamin C. High doses of vitamin C have been found to
strengthen arteries, reduce total cholesterol, increase high-density
lipoprotein (HDL), inhibit platelet aggregation, and reduce
Cinnamon can help reduce many risk factors associated with
atherosclerosis and heart disease. A 2003 study published in the journal
Diabetes Care in 2003 found that either one gram, three grams,
or six grams of cinnamon daily can lower glucose, triglycerides, LDL
cholesterol, and total cholesterol in type 2 diabetics. The study
observed 60 diabetics for a 40-day period. Researchers concluded that
cinnamon can help reduce the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
7. Ground flaxseed
Flaxseed is another important food for heart health. Ground flaxseed
can help support healthy arteries with high fiber. It is also a good
source of alpha-linolenic acide, an omega-3 acid that
can lower inflammation and blood pressure. In turn, arteries will not
become clogged. In a 1997 study published in the journal Atherosclerosis, researchers found that flaxseed lowered the development of aortic atherosclerosis by 46% in rabbits.
Researchers concluded that modest flaxseed supplementation is an
effective treatment for reducing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis.
Also, it is a good idea to grind your flaxseed. They contain greater
amounts of omega-3.
On the other hand, the polyunsaturated fats in pre-ground flaxseeds
will break down over longer exposure to oxygen, and it can become
8. Fermented cabbage
Kimchi is a popular probiotic Korean recipe that includes fermented
cabbage and hot peppers that has been found to slow the atherosclerotic
process. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that an active compound in kimchi called 3-94-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenyl
can help prevent the development of aortic atherosclerosis in
high-cholesterol-fed rabbits. Fermented cabbage has also found to
degrade toxic chemicals, including bisphenol A and the insecticide
9. Sesame seed
Sesame seeds can help prevent a blocked artery. Evidence shows that
they can help prevent the progression of atherosclerosis. A three-month
animal study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2006
suggests that the fatty acid content in sesame oil could effectively
inhibit atherosclerosis lesion formation, blood cholesterol,
triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels in mice.
10. Pomegranate juice
The high antioxidant content and punicic acid in pomegranate juice
are thought to help decrease plaque formation and fight atherosclerosis.
Pomegranate juice also contains important nutrients for heart health,
such as magnesium and selenium. In a randomized, double-blind, parallel
study published in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2009,
researchers found that drinking 240 milliliters (ml) of pomegranate
juice daily for up to 18 months slowed the progression of carotid artery
disease for patients at risk of coronary health disease.
Other Natural Remedies for Clogged Arteries
Other foods that help prevent clogged arteries include asparagus,
avocado, broccoli, chia seeds, fenugreek seeds, and coconut oil. Dietary
supplements and nutrients that can help with atherosclerosis include
methyl donators like vitamin B6, choline, folic acid, and vitamin B12,
as well as antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein,
zeaxanthin, grape seed extract, and pine bark extract.
Other important nutrients include L-arginine, vitamin D, vitamin B3,
fish oils, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Other supplements include
magnesium, selenium, resveratrol, copper, chromium, and
Finally, exercise is considered just as important as dieting for
cardiovascular health. Exercises that reduce stress are important,
including meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong. Aerobic exercises,
gardening, walking, or running can also help combat atherosclerosis.
Exercise for about 30 minutes daily for five days a week.
Disclaimer: Specifically, anyone on blood thinners needs to
consult their physician before taking additional blood thinning dietary
factorsThis information is not intended
to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your
physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about
your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard
professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because
of something you have read here.