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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.
  • Obesity.
  • 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.

Illustration depicting a normal healthy artery and a clogged artery

Illustration depicting a normal healthy artery and a clogged artery

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


skperdon from Canada on June 26, 2015:

Interesting hub Shil1978. I wish more people would pay attention to their body for health reasons too. Not just for external beauty reasons only.

Dorothy p on January 16, 2014:

This has happened to me twice. I put it off as something else cause I'm quite young. It just happened again and I googled the symptoms. This came up and Im scheduling an appointment tomorrow. Thank you.

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Shil1978 (author) on February 13, 2012:

Thank you, 'one2get2no,' for stopping by and sharing your story. I am so glad for you that you were able to recognize the symptoms in time and take remedial action. I wish you the very best of health going forward. Stay healthy :)

Philip Cooper from Olney on February 07, 2012:

Thank you Shil1978.....very interesting hub. I suffered from just those symptoms 3 years ago and luckily visited my doctor immediately. Within two days I had 2 stents put in two arteries and had given up smoking. I have not wanted or thought of a cigarette since I had the stents put in. I now walk and play tennis without getting short of breath.

Shil1978 (author) on September 03, 2011:

Thank you, Rachelle, for stopping by this hub and commenting. Yes, we do need constant reminders sometimes. It is all too easy to take life for granted and eat whatever we like, but we may pay a high price for doing that. So, reminders do help!!

Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on September 03, 2011:

I try to follow a heart healthy diet, but life sometimes gets in the way. Thanks for reminding me to be more cautious with my health. This is a great hub.

Shil1978 (author) on March 23, 2011:

Thank you, cheerfulnuts, for stopping by and for your kind words - much appreciated! Yes, our lifestyles have become increasingly unhealthy and most people just don't have the determination or discipline to want to change or do anything about it - it is sad indeed!!

cheerfulnuts from Manila, Philippines on March 23, 2011:

Thanks for the info, and sorry about your aunt. =< The sad thing is, even if some people knew about this, they still refused to change their old habits. We're so used to our unhealthy lifestyle that it's so hard to switch to healthy foods, to quit smoking, and to be physically active. It takes a lot of determination to live healthy.

Shil1978 (author) on January 17, 2011:

Thank you, VS, for stopping by and commenting. Glad you found this article useful. Yes, the hope is it will help others take signs of it seriously before it is too late!

VioletSun from Oregon/ Name: Marie on January 17, 2011:

Thank you for writing this, and reminding us to be alert. The information is very clear and well written. Writing about the signs will help others.

Shil1978 (author) on December 26, 2010:

Thank you, KKG, for stopping by and commenting. Yes, we need to pay more attention to this subject - I hope more people start doing so. It could mean the difference between life and death!!

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on December 26, 2010:

Well written hub about a subject we need to pay more attention to. All too often we ignore the signs, often paying attention until it's too late. Great advice.

Shil1978 (author) on December 21, 2010:

Thank you, Paul, for stopping by and sharing your story. We do tend to ignore our health and keep postponing a visit to the doctor's office, until its too late!

Glad that in your case, a proper diagnosis was made and treatment was done. As you say, anyone can have clogged arteries and not know they have it, if they don't pay attention to the sometimes subtle signs and symptoms. If only people paid more attention to their health and picked up on the signs and symptoms. As in your case, what people perceive as heartburn could indicate a potential clogged artery/coronary artery disease as well. Never hurts to get it checked out!!

Happy for you that you are back to normal and living a normal life. Wish you the best of health in the future too. Thanks much, again, for sharing your story. Am sure others reading this article would benefit from your experience and take potential warning signs more seriously!!

paulh on December 21, 2010:

Coronary artery disease is definitely a silent killer.

Like your aunt, all my friends and family thought I was pretty healthy. At 51 I participated in sports, ran, lifted weights and kept very active. I was about 10 pounds overweight but it didn't concern me much. But I had high cholesterol and I wasn't paying attention to it. I made a visit with my family doctor because I was having heartburn and over the counter medications weren't helping. I also noticed I was having a bit more trouble completing my runs. I just thought it was because I was getting older; you can't run like a 20 year old forever. Imagine my shock when my doctor sent me to the emergency ward! Tests indicated I had a minor heart attack. I was kept in hospital for more test which revealed blocked coronary arteries: 85%, 90% and 75%. I underwent bypass surgery within a week of entering the hospital.

It's been a year and a half since my surgery. I'm back to running and lifting weights. I feel pretty much back to normal except for the occasional pain from my incision.

What I've been through shows that anyone can have clogged arteries and not even know it. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure don't ignore it. If you have frequent bouts of heartburn see a doctor. Failure to act could kill you.

Shil1978 (author) on December 20, 2010:

GarnetBird, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked this hub. Would read your hub soon!!

Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on December 20, 2010:

Nice Hub--I hope you have time to read my Hub on Zetia/a medication frequently given for high blood fat levels. It nearly put me in the hospital and has a wealth of lawsuits against it due to permanent damage it can cause. I am now taking fish oil, garlic tablets and writing down everything I eat in a food diary.

Shil1978 (author) on December 16, 2010:

Always nice to have you around, Shalini. Yes, many of the diseases the modern human suffers from is attributable to our modern lifestyle. We don't eat all that natural or healthy these days, which is kind of sad. Thanks again for visiting by and commenting :)

Shalini Kagal from India on December 16, 2010:

Shil1078 - you put things down so coherently. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle has so much to answer for!

Shil1978 (author) on December 13, 2010:

Twilight, glad you liked this hub. Always nice to hear from you.

Quuenie, yes, unfortunately, many people are unaware of the symptoms and hence ignore it until it is too late.

Thank you both for stopping by and commenting.

quuenieproac from Malaysia on December 13, 2010:

This is a great article, an eye opener to so many of us unaware of the symptoms of an impending heart attack. Knowing is not enough,we need to take action to be proactive . Thanks for sharing.

Twilight Lawns from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. on December 13, 2010:

You write so clearly and lucidly. I frequently find I start an article such as the above and then push it away half way though because it just isn't interesting enough or relevant. I enjoyed the lot. Thank you.

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