Clogged arteries: Signs and symptoms of arterial plaque

By: Emily Lunardo | Blood Disorders | Wednesday, November 02, 2016 - 03:00 PM

clogged arteriesThere are many causes for clogged arteries and arterial plaque including an unhealthy diet, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, and elevated blood sugar or diabetes. Clogged arteries are a preventable condition and you should work towards keeping your arteries as plaque-free as possible, or else it could land you in the hospital with a heart attack or stroke.

Arterial plaque lines the artery walls and can be made with various substances. Calcium, fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, and fibrin can all contribute to arterial plaque. When plaque begins to line the artery walls, additional substances can begin to be secreted in the body, worsening plaque buildup. As a result, artery passages become narrow and blood flow can be limited. This causes the heart to work harder, thus contributing to damage and ultimately leading to a cardiovascular event.

The body requires healthy circulation for proper functioning. If blood cannot reach the organs and extremities, your overall health is affected, resulting in sluggish digestion, memory problems, and the onset of other illnesses, too.

It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of clogged arteries in order to prevent these complications. When you are aware of what is going inside your body, you can take the necessary steps to make appropriate lifestyle changes in order to prevent complications.

Signs and symptoms of clogged arteries

Angina (chest pain): This can be a scary symptom because you may think you are having a heart attack – in some cases, clogged arteries are so bad that you could very well be having a heart attack. Chest pain is a result of reduced blood flow and may feel like tightness, heaviness, or pressure. This type of chest pain is often triggered by physical or emotional exertion, so it won’t occur at rest.

Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath may be experienced when the blood cannot reach other parts of the body. You may experience greater fatigue after physical exertion.

Erectile dysfunction: When blood flow can’t reach the penis, it can lead to erectile dysfunction. In some cases, ED is an early sign of atherosclerosis or impending heart disease, so if your doctor cannot find another cause of your erectile dysfunction, clogged arteries may be the culprit.

Male pattern baldness: Studies have uncovered links between male pattern baldness and coronary heart disease.

Earlobe crease: Some studies have found that people with a creased earlobe often have heart disease. The studies did not prove causality, but only an association as earlobe creases can be caused by many other factors. It may still be something worth looking into.

Excessive sweating (night sweating): If a room you are in is generally cool but you can’t help but sweat – without being menopausal – it could be a sign of clogged arteries because your heart is working harder to pump blood to the rest of your body.

Weakness or dizziness: Dizziness or sudden lightheadedness could be a sign of clogged arteries or an early sign of stroke. Unexplained falls, loss of balance, and difficulty walking may all be explained by excessive plaque buildup.

Heart palpitations: Your heart may feel as though it is racing or skipping a beat, which could be a sign of clogged arteries. If you are experiencing heart palpitations along with some of the other symptoms listed, this may very well be a result of clogged arteries.

Indigestion, nausea, and vomiting: Lack of circulation to the digestive area can cause nausea, indigestion, and vomiting.

Leg and calf pain: If you experience leg or calf pain along with difficulties walking, it could signify clogged arteries. Cholesterol can lead to arterial plaque in the legs, which can prevent blood flow to these areas.

Tests to determine clogged arteries

triglycerides levelsNow that you are familiar with the signs and symptoms of clogged arteries, we will now cover the different tests your doctor may run to confirm diagnosis.

For starters, your doctor will run some heart imaging tests along with blood tests to measure cholesterol levels and other factors that can contribute to arterial plaques. Your doctor may also run an electrocardiogram to measure electrical signals, echocardiogram, and a stress test to measure how your heart is working.

Your doctor may also run additional tests to rule out other causes. For example, many of the symptoms associated with clogged arteries can also signify kidney problems, so your doctor may run urine samples or check you for peripheral artery disease, which is another circulatory problem.

In the meantime, it’s important that you clean up your diet and avoid unhealthy foods, not smoke, control your risk factors for clogged arteries such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, and partake in regular exercise that fits your abilities – you don’t want to exert yourself. Get your doctor’s approval before beginning any exercise program.

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