When my dad recently went for a blood test, the doctor told him that he has high cholesterol. The results of another test had shown he has high blood pressure, two factors that contribute to clogged arteries.
Arteries are the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood from our hearts to the rest of the body. They are normally strong and elastic but progressive clogging of arteries (atherosclerosis) is a serious condition and major factor of cardiovascular diseases, including strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease.
About 600,000 die every year in the U.S. as a result of cardiovascular disease, which makes it the leading cause of death, as well as being known as a silent killer since there are no symptoms until the problem becomes more serious.
Symptoms of clogged arteries:
The type of arteries clogged determines the symptoms.
Carotid artery disease is a condition of clogged arteries in the brain, which happens when plaque blocks or narrows the carotid arteries, and there may also be signs of a stroke present. Symptoms include sudden weakness, breathing problems, severe headaches, confusion, blurry vision, loss of consciousness, paralysis, trouble with speech, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination and unexplained falls.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when plaque blocks or narrows the coronary arteries and the heart muscle cannot get enough blood, which causes chest pain (angina) like a squeezing pressure on your chest, and perhaps even in your back, shoulders, arms, neck or jaw. Angina can sometimes be confused with indigestion symptoms and is also often triggered by stress. Some other symptoms of CHD are shortness of breath and problems with heartbeat.
Clogged renal arteries in kidneys will lead to chronic kidney disease, which slowly impairs kidney function over time. In the early stages there are no symptoms and if the condition worsens, symptoms can be nausea, loss of appetite, problems with concentrating, tiredness, swelling in hands or feet as well as numbness or itchiness. High blood pressure and kidney failure are also symptoms.
Plaque building up in arms, legs, or pelvis (known as peripheral arteries) causes peripheral arterial disease. The narrowed or blocked arteries cause pain and numbness and sometimes even dangerous infections.
How do arteries get blocked?
Arteriosclerosis means that arteries become hard, thick or narrow. There is a thin layer of endothelial cells lining the arteries that helps to keep the insides smooth and toned and allows blood to keep flowing.
However, there are sometimes factors that damage the endothelial cells, such as platelet cells, antioxidant deficiency, homocysteine levels and free radicals from toxins. Vitamin C deficiency as well as homocysteine degrades the ground substance, a gel-like substance between the cells which helps to maintain the integrity of the epithelial cell barrier.
Plaque accumulates in conditions when certain substances like calcium, fat, cholesterol (such as low density lipoprotein), toxic metals and cellular waste cannot migrate out of the atherosclerotic lesion. There is also a material called fibrin which is accumulated when arteries are clogged.
Although the exact cause of clogged arteries is still unknown, arteriosclerosis is a complex condition that may even begin in childhood and slowly develop as you age. Certain factors including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and insulin resistance may damage arteries’ inner layers.
Other factors include obesity, lack of exercise, a type-A personality, elevated triglycerides, infections, chronic inflammation, lupus or heavy metal exposure. High cholesterol levels and fats in the blood are also considered possible causes of arteriosclerosis and on rare occasions, genetic factors may contribute with elevated production of cholesterol linked to arteriosclerosis.
Nutrient imbalances or deficiencies have also been linked to arteriosclerosis, which can be triggered by oxidative stress because of depletion of Vitamin C and other antioxidants, as well as a diet high in processed starches, sugar and harmful fats from overheated oils.
10 foods that will unclog your arteries
You could unclog your arteries and reverse arteriosclerosis with doctor-prescribed drugs that lower cholesterol or beta blockers to lower blood pressure, which help slow the progression of buildup of plaque.
On the other hand, there are also lots of foods that research has shown to be beneficial in preventing and unclogging arteries as well.
This popular spice contains a polyphenol called curcumin that has long been known to be beneficial in its cardio protective effects. Turmeric extract is also thought to reduce LDL cholesterol and the plaque building up in arteries.
One 2011 study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, found turmeric more effective in reducing cholesterol and suppressing early atherosclerotic lesions than lovastatin, a cholesterol reducing drug, and a 2006 study conducted on mice indicated that curcumin can be beneficial in preventing artery damage associated with blockage of the carotid artery.
This is considered one of the top artery-unclogging foods. Garlic has been shown in studies to help lower blood pressure, slow down atherosclerosis and prevent heart disease. One such study, published in 1999 in the journal Atherosclerosis, found garlic to be able to prevent plaque buildup in arteries. Other studies have also found garlic to be beneficial in preventing and treating atherosclerosis and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by 50%, most probably because it acts as a thinner of blood.
This spice has amazing anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Ginger has certain compounds such as shogaols and gingerols, which have the effect of reducing cholesterol, thus preventing the buildup of plaque and unclogging arteries. The journal of nutrition published a study in 2000 which showed that ginger extract can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, aortic atherosclerotic lesion areas, LDL-linked fat peroxides and aggregation.
- Cayenne pepper
Spicy things can also be good for unclogging arteries. Cayenne pepper contains a compound capsaicin which helps reduce LDL cholesterol and it can also improve blood circulation and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. In a study which was published in 2009, capsaicin was found to be able to prevent pulmonary and vascular complications arising from use of HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) drugs, believed to accelerate atherosclerosis and pulmonary artery hypertension.
We all know that drinking lemon water is a healthy habit that is also good for your heart. Lemons are known to reduce cholesterol levels and help arteries by preventing oxidative damage. They are also loaded with vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and in high doses has been found to reduce cholesterol, increase high density lipoprotein (HDL), inhibit platelet aggregation, reduce inflammation and strengthen arteries.
Cinnamon is good for reducing many of the risk factors of atherosclerosis and heart diseases. A study published in Diabetes Care in 2003 observed 60 diabetics for a period of 40 days and showed that 1,3 or 6 grams a day can reduce levels of glucose, LDL and total cholesterol in type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that the spice can help reduce risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
- Ground flaxseed
Another food that is good for heart health, ground flaxseed is high in fiber for unclogging arteries as well as a source of an omega-3 acid, alpha-linoleic acid, for reducing inflammation and blood pressure, thus preventing clogging. The journal Atherosclerosis published a study in 1997 in which research on rabbits showed that flaxseed lowered development of aortic atherosclerosis by 46%.
The researchers concluded that it is effective in reducing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis. They note that ground flaxseed is better because it has more omega-3 in addition to the fact that it can become rancid if ground.
- Fermented cabbage
A popular probiotic Korean dish, Kimchi, is made with fermented cabbage and hot peppers, and has been shown to slow the atherosclerotic process. One study from 2007 published in the Journal of agricultural and food chemistry found that Kimchi has an active compound 3-94-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenyl which helps prevent aortic atherosclerosis developing in rabbits fed with a high-cholesterol diet. In addition, fermented cabbage can degrade toxic chemicals such as the insecticide chlorpyrifos and bisphenol A.
- Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds can help unclog a blocked artery. Evidence indicates that they can help the progression of atherosclerosis. A three-month study with mice, published in the Journal of Medicinal food in 2006, suggests that the fatty acid contained in sesame oil could effectively inhibit the formation of atherosclerosis lesions, blood cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides,
- Pomegranate juice
Pomegranate juice has a high anti antioxidant content and punicic acid, which are believed to reduce plaque formation, unclog arteries and battle atherosclerosis. In addition, it also contains magnesium and selenium, important nutrients for heart health. In one comprehensive study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers found that drinking pomegranate juice (240 ml) every day for 18 months slowed the development of carotid artery disease.
Some more natural remedies for clogged arteries
To unclog your arteries, you can also consume avocado, asparagus, broccoli, fenugreek seeds, chia seeds, antioxidant coconut oil. To help with atherosclerosis, you can take dietary supplements and nutrients – methyl donators like vitamin B6, vitamin B12, choline, folic acid, as well as antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, pine bark extract and grape seed extract. In addition, other nutrients including vitamin B3, vitamin D, fish oils, L-arginine, and CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) are important, as well as the supplements magnesium, selenium, chromium, copper, resveratrol and trimethylglycine.
There is also a technique involving high doses of nutrients called nutritional chelation which supports removal of plaque.
Finally, exercises that reduce stress, such as yoga, and aerobic exercises, like walking, can also help fight atherosclerosis and its recommended that 30 minutes a day, five days a week, should be put aside for exercising.
Note: This information cannot be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment and you should always see a qualified health provider with any questions about your condition and/or medication.