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Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the tissues in the body. Healthy arteries have smooth and elastic inner walls and the blood easily flows through them.
Clogged arteries or atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty and fibrous material within the arteries. It is the underlying condition that leads to coronary heart disease, stroke or other circulatory issues. Atherosclerosis may affect all arteries, particularly the coronaries (carry blood to the heart), the carotids (carry blood to the brain) and peripheral arteries (transport blood to the legs).
WHAT CAUSES CLOGGED ARTERIES?
Atherosclerosis refers to the narrowing, hardening and thickening of the arteries. A layer of endothelial cells keeps the smooth and elastic lining of the artery walls. This allows the blood to flow throughout the body. A few factors can damage the endothelial layer, such as high levels of homocysteine, platelet cells and free radicals from antioxidant deficiency or toxic substances. Moreover, high levels of homocysteine and a lack of vitamin C may damage the degradation of ground substance. This gel-like substance maintains the integrity of the epithelial barrier.
Atheroma, or fatty material, starts to accumulate in the artery lining walls. As it is a foreign material, it leads to body inflammation. The arteries try to eliminate the inflammation by repairing the tissues, thus creating a seal of fibrous material over the core. This forms plague that is made from fatty material, calcium, toxic metals, cholesterol, fibrin, cellular waste and the fibrous tissue around it. As more fatty material accumulates inside the arteries, the process gradually worsens, causing body inflammation. This condition causes the arteries to harden and narrow.
Even though health experts do not know the real causes of clogged arteries, this process stems from damage to the artery walls. The damage, which facilitates the plague deposition, may be caused by:
• High blood pressure
The levels of high blood pressure increase the deposition of plague. Moreover, it accelerates the hardening of the blocked arteries.
• High cholesterol levels
High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) are the main contributor to plague formation. However, HDL is considered to get rid of LDL from the blocked arteries and carry it back to the liver, where it is completely removed.
Smoking is thought to increase the process of atherosclerosis in the arteries of the legs, the heart and the aorta.
• High blood sugar
People who are suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes have a high risk of artery plague formation.
• Other factors that contribute to clogged arteries include stress, family history, obesity, heavy metal exposure, high levels of triglycerides, sedentary life and chronic inflammation caused by arthritis, lupus or infections. Moreover, oxidative stress through a lack of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, magnesium and other antioxidants may be another cause of atherosclerosis. Also, dietary factors include processed starches, a diet rich in sugar and fats damaged from overheated oils.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF CLOGGED ARTERIES?
The consequences of clogged arteries and arterial plague depend on where the arterial build-up accumulates. Clogged arteries may cause numerous medical conditions, such as:
• Coronary artery disease
When plague accumulates in the coronary arteries, it leads to heart disease or coronary artery disease. Namely, the plague narrows and blocks the coronary arteries and the heart muscle cannot get enough blood. Coronary heart disease may cause heartbeat issues, shortness of breath and chest pain (angina). Emotional stress also contributes to angina. Moreover, this condition can cause heart attack and even death.
• Carotid artery disease
When plague accumulates in the carotid arteries, it leads to carotid artery disease. Namely, plague narrows and blocks the carotid arteries, which may cause stroke symptoms. Other symptoms of carotid artery disease are loss of balance, unexplained falls, dizziness, trouble walking, paralysis, speech difficulty, blurry vision, loss of consciousness, severe headaches, confusion, weakness and breathing problems.
• Peripheral artery disease
When plague accumulates in the pelvis, legs and arms, it results in peripheral artery disease. If the peripheral arteries are narrowed or blocked, the amount of oxygen in the legs is reduced, so you may experience numbness, pain or infection in the feet and the arms, gangrene and delayed injuries to the feet.
• Renal artery disease
When plague accumulates in the renal arteries, it leads to chronic kidney disease. This condition may weaken the function of the kidneys. Some of the most common symptoms of chronic kidney disease include tiredness, loss of appetite, concentration trouble, nausea, itchiness or numbness, swelling in the hands and the feet, high blood pressure and kidney failure.
NATURAL FOODS THAT UNCLOG BLOCKED ARTERIES
Doctors usually prescribe cholesterol-reducing drugs, such as beta-blockers or statin drugs. These drugs hinder the progression of plague buildup.