- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Signs and Symptoms of Clogged Arteries
Clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks and strokes and are responsible for countless cases of disabilities and deaths each year. I recently had an aunt die of a heart attack. She was healthy and active outwardly, so it was a shock to learn of her passing away so suddenly. A couple of years back, I had a young acquaintance suffer a stroke; he was just 30. Clogged arteries increase the likelihood of formation of blood clots, which can either partially or completely block arteries supplying blood to the brain or heart muscle. The medical name for clogged arteries is atherosclerosis and other names by which this condition is known are CAD or coronary artery disease, heart disease, hardening or narrowing of arteries and ischemic heart disease. Clogged arteries are a result of plaque formation on the inner walls of arteries (see illustration). Plaque is composed primarily of fatty substances, cholesterol and calcium.
What Causes Clogged Arteries
There are certain risk factors that can lead you to have clogged arteries. Some of these are,
- High levels of LDL cholesterol (also called bad cholesterol) in the blood.
- Smoking. This never helps and is a risk factor for many health conditions. Consider quitting seriously. Passive smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, so take steps to ensure you are not exposed to it. Smoking damages blood vessels, raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Smoking also interferes with the oxygenation process by constricting blood vessels and also makes your heart work faster as a consequence.
- Lack of physical activity.
- High blood sugar levels.
- Elevated levels of the protein called CRP or C-reactive protein may also be an indicator of possible clogged arteries/plaque formation.
- Family history of heart disease.
- High blood pressure, which is defined as blood pressure staying consistently over 140/90 over a period of time.
If you have any of the conditions above, you should be watchful for the signs and symptoms of clogged arteries described below.
Clogged Arteries or Atherosclerosis Signs and Symptoms
Unless you know what to look for, you might not even know if you could potentially have clogged arteries. Some of the symptoms are,
- Angina or chest pain. This might feel like a squeezing pain or pressure sensation in your chest, heaviness behind the sternum or breast bone, a sense of impending doom. The pain can radiate to your shoulders, arms, back or jaw. It is also activity related, meaning that it tends to get worse during activities and tends to go away when you rest. It can also be brought on by any emotional stressors.
- Shortness of breath/fatigue is another common symptom. If you get short of breath easily or find it difficult to breathe, it could indicate a potential clogged artery.
It is important to note that people with clogged arteries may experience these symptoms progressively over time as the arteries begin to clog up. When the arteries start narrowing up more, the severity of these symptoms may become more pronounced. It is quite unfortunate that many people tend to dismiss these warning signs - it generally is what makes the difference between timely medical intervention and treatment and suffering a fatal heart attack or disabling stroke.
It is important to note too that some people may not experience any symptoms; however, if the symptoms exhibit themselves, it is important that you don't go into denial mode and put away a visit to your doctor's office.
Treatment - Ways You Can Slow or Reverse Clogging of Arteries
Clogged arteries can be treated using many different treatment modalities. Some of these can include,
Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet: In short, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, a diet high in soluble fiber such as oatmeal, whole grains, legumes such as kidney beans, chick peas. Eating fish also has heart-healthy benefits as they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect your heart from blood clot formation, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks. You should also eat a diet low in salt.
Lifestyle Modifications: This can involve giving up smoking, losing weight, increasing your physical activity, decreasing your stress levels by taking up Yoga or meditation or other relaxation techniques.
Taking Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medications that can help prevent blood clots, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is important though that you take these medications regularly as prescribed by your doctor.
It Is Never Too Late - Take Action Now And Be Proactive Now
When I think of my aunt, who I was very close to and who passed away from a heart attack recently, I just cannot stop thinking of the fact that a proactive approach on her part or those around her could have saved her life. She had high blood sugar and blood pressure issues, but she would tend to take that within her stride. Also, if only she knew what the symptoms were that should be taken seriously and had sought medical help sooner. I came to know later from friends and relatives that she was feeling uneasy the previous day and was feeling short of breath and declined taking the steps to the house, when she visited her sister. The next morning too, she had chest pain and was sweating heavily.
I guess she kept those symptoms from those around her, until it was too late. It is quite unfortunate though that she didn't have anyone around her in the days preceding, who could have identified these symptoms as being serious enough to warrant a thorough medical checkup. I still can't believe she's gone. I hope though that those who read this hub get a few pointers on what to watch for, be it you personally or friends or relatives around you. It is all about the timing. The sooner you identify the problem, the more time you have to take steps to fight it. Don't be in denial mode - see your doctor right away in case you experience the above signs and symptoms. Do remember that this is not a definitive health guide, so do talk to your doctor to learn more about what you need to watch out for and what steps to take. Use this article as a primary guide only.
© 2010 Shil1978