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Symptoms of Blocked Arteries, Causes, Treatment

Updated on August 18, 2014

Arteries are blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood from the heart to varied other organs and tissues in the body. Oxygenated blood flows to the heart via the coronary arteries.

Blocked arteries can arise due to varied underlying conditions, improper diets, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Blocked arteries can also increase the risk to developing different types of heart diseases.

Symptoms of blocked arteries

Both men and women suffer from similar signs and symptoms of blocked arteries. Some common symptoms are listed below:

  • Deficient supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart can result in abnormal functioning of the cardiac muscles. This can lead to angina wherein the patient may experience discomfort and pain in and around the chest area.
  • Buildup of fat and calcium deposits can cause blocked arteries in the neck. It can be identified with symptoms such as exhaustion and weakness, tingling feelings in the neck, problems in speaking, and pain during neck movements, etc.
  • People with blocked arteries may suffer from buildup of fluids in the pulmonary alveoli as well as lack of oxygen-rich blood in the body. This can result in edginess, anxiety, and shortness of breath. These are often the most common symptoms reported by patients with blocked arteries.
  • Arrhythmia or rapid heartbeat is another common symptom of blocked arteries. It may however be noted that rapid heartbeat can also occur due to strenuous activities or elevated stress levels. Blocked arteries associated with arrhythmia may occur along with pain in chest that migrates to the neck, back, and arms.
  • Overall weakness in the body, excessive perspiration, elevated fatigue, and distress in the chest region are some other symptoms of blocked arteries.

Causes of blocked arteries

Blocked arteries can be caused due a variety of reasons as listed below:

  • Blocked arteries is a deadly condition.It can be a symptom of certain pre-existing cardiovascular diseases.
  • People with high blood pressure are more vulnerable to developing blocked arteries. Such people are also more likely to experience an atypical rise in blood pressure, which can eventually lead to coronary heart disease.
  • Another cause is the occurrence of blood clots in the arterial blood vessels, which can then severely constrict them. Such constriction of the arteries can impair the process of blood circulation and sufficient flow of oxygen to the heart. The decreased oxygen supply can in turn cause the heart muscles to contract, ultimately paving the way for a heart attack.
  • The accumulation of plaque, fatty matter, and calcium in the walls of the arteries can also give rise to arterial blockage.
  • The presence of plaque in legs can cause blocked arteries in the lower limbs. Overuse of the muscles in the legs can hamper effective functioning of the arteries and result in numerous symptoms such as sores and ulcer formation, walking difficulties, and increased muscle weakness. In extreme cases, blocked arteries in legs can cause deficient or absent blood circulation and the affected limb may require amputation.
  • Increased deposition of fatty material in the arteries can also cause blockage in these blood vessels. The body cannot break down the additional amounts of fat molecules, which in turn results in increased levels of LDL cholesterol in the arteries, thereby causing arterial blockage.
  • Obese or overweight individuals are more susceptible to developing blocked arteries than people of normal weight. Smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes and other medical problems are other causes of arterial blockage.

Treatment of blocked arteries

The exact treatment for arterial blockage is dependent on the severity of blockage, intensity of symptoms, age of the patient, location of the blocked arteries, and the medical history of the affected person. Mild cases are usually treated with medications and lifestyle changes, while severe cases may require surgery or other invasive medical procedures.

Blocked arteries may be treated in the below listed ways:

Medications

  • If blood clots are present then they can be dissolved with thrombolytic drugs
  • Clot development can be reduced with blood thinning medicines
  • Vasodilators are prescribed to lower the blood pressure and unconstrict the arteries.
  • Pain alleviation with analgesics
  • Different medicines to decrease the level of cholesterol

Lifestyle changes

Regular exercising and changes in the diet can help maintain a healthy weight, decrease the levels of cholesterol, and thus reduce the risk to blocked arteries. Patients may follow the below listed suggestions:

  • Avoid processed foods with refined sugars or carbohydrates, and artificial sodium or sweeteners.
  • Decrease or completely avoid foods rich in cholesterol or saturated fat.
  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat food abundant in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
  • Quit smoking and/or use of tobacco products. Decrease or avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Eat 4 to 5 small meals per day. Avoid heavy or large meals.
  • Practice breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or other stress-alleviating exercises along with normal exercising.

Surgery and other invasive techniques

  • Surgical procedures like atherectomy, angioplasty, and endarterectomy are used to mechanically remove plaque and widen blocked arteries.
  • A bypass surgery involves the use of grafts to reroute the flow of blood.

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