Simple Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Your Healthy Life

Healthy Life

Know the Symptoms of Your Blocked Artery
Dr. Indrajeet Tyagi and Dr. Iranna Hirapur

The coronary arteries surrounding the heart work to supply this vital organ with oxygen-rich blood. Healthy arteries usually allow blood to flow freely whereas the blood vessels that are clogged with plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis, serious blockage diminishes blood flow to the heart and other parts of the body. Starving the heart of oxygen increases the odds of having a possibly debilitating heart attack or stroke. Poor diet choices, sedentary lifestyle habits, tobacco use and medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure (hypertension) can greatly contribute to the narrowing of the arteries, increasing the chance for a life-threatening cardiovascular event.

Many people do not either feel or know their arteries are blocked until they experience an emergency such as a heart attack. Another common type of artery blockage is a stroke. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage similar to those that can occur in Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), but this blockage happens in a blood vessel that supplies blood and oxygen to your brain. In the case of both CAD and ischemic stroke, seconds count. Tissues in your heart and brain can die off quickly without oxygen, resulting in permanent damage. A blockage in your coronary arteries usually causes a heart attack, while a stroke can cause neurological symptoms.

What are the symptoms of clogged coronary artery and cerebral artery?

Symptoms of a blocked coronary artery include:

  • Chest pain that radiates into your neck, jaw, arm, or back
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Syncope (sudden loss of consciousness)

Symptoms of a clog in your cerebral arteries may include:

  • Facial drooping
  • Slurred speech
  • Balance problems
  • Vision changes
  • Loss of consciousness

Stroke symptoms usually occur in specific area of the brain where tissues are damaged due to blood flow cut off and function in those areas cannot be restored. Whereas clogged arteries in other areas of the body will produce symptoms specific to those areas. For example, a clog in a peripheral artery can cause swelling in your feet and legs, while a retinal artery blockage can cause vision changes.

Arteries move blood to every organ and tissue in your body. If you notice symptoms that weaken or reduce function in any area of your body, discuss these symptoms with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. These symptoms include:

  • Changes in skin color
  • Changes in urination
  • Back pain
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Note: Chest pain, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness are examples of symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

What causes clogged arteries, and who is at risk?

Typically, blocked arteries are the result of atherosclerosis. It occurs when fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances build up in your arteries and the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.

When this plaque buildup occurs in your coronary arteries or veins, the space that blood can pass through becomes smaller and smaller. Eventually, your veins or arteries can become completely blocked. Genetics and family history play a large role in the development of cardiovascular diseases. High cholesterol other factors such as smoking, eating a high fat or high cholesterol diet, living a sedentary lifestyle, not getting regular exercise, having overweight or obesity can also increase your risk of having a clogged artery.

Angina and chest pain: What is the difference?

“Angina” is the medical term for chest pain, but not all chest pain is the same. Angina usually develops when the tissues in your heart is not getting enough oxygen and is one of the most common early signs of a blocked artery. It is also one of the most well-known symptoms of a heart attack, which can make it difficult to know if chest pain is an emergency. Angina is not a disease; it is a symptom of a more serious condition such as coronary artery disease. Angina pain may start in your breastbone (sternum), radiate to your left arm or shoulder, or extend to your jaw or upper back.

–Stable angina occurs when there is a decrease in oxygen and causes discomfort but no major changes to your overall health. You may feel chest pain or pressure during exercise, but it goes away when you are at rest and usually no changes to your blood pressure or heart rate.

— Unstable angina occurs when the oxygen needed badly and you are in danger of permanent damage to your heart. Although this kind of chest pain occurs during exercise, it usually happens during rest due to serious blockage or clot in the arteries that bring blood and oxygen to your heart.

Note: If you experience chest pain while at rest and it does not go away when you change positions, seek emergency medical care.

What are the other signs you may have atherosclerosis (blocked arteries)

In addition to chest pain, symptoms of a clogged artery may include – dizziness, feeling like your heart is racing (heart palpitations), nausea, shortness of breath, sweating, and weakness

How do doctors test for clogged arteries?

Tracking your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels can provide clues about a problem in your cardiovascular system. However, changes in your vision or urination habits can also be symptoms of arterial blockages in different areas of your body. Your doctor may also run tests to look for signs of atherosclerosis such as: 1) electrocardiogram (ECG). 2) Echocardiogram. 3) Exercise test. 4) Cardiac stress test. 5) Cardiac catheterization. 6) Angiogram. 7) Coronary artery calcium scan. 8) Blood tests to check cholesterol. 9) A whooshing sound, called a bruit, in your artery. 10) Low blood pressure in one of your limbs.

How to lower the risk of clogged arteries?

It is important to know the signs of a blocked artery. The plaques can increase in size until no blood can flow through them, or pieces of the plaques can break off and lodge in other areas of your blood vessels.

You can lower your risk of developing clogged arteries by:

1) Eating a heart-healthy diet.

2) Exercising regularly.

3) Managing stress with healthy coping tools.

4) Taking medications to lower cholesterol or blood pressure, if needed.

5) Quitting smoking. In case of advanced disease or blockage, you can go for Catheters, Stents, and Removal of bloked sections.

Authors: Dr. Indrajeet Tyagi, M. R. Medical College, Kalaburagi, Karnataka and Dr Iranna S. Hirapur, MD, DM (Cardiology) Interventional Cardiologist at Heart Foundation, Kalaburagi, Karnataka