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Blocked arteries – 5 tips to slow the process down!

Blood supply is essential for our bodies to function. So it’s no wonder that when it starts getting cut off, our bodies react adversely. Unfortunately, our daily activities can lead to a slow choking of our arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to all the parts of the body. Smoking, obesity, foods with high cholesterol, etc. can all lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. 

The plaque slowly begins to form a layer inside the arteries. This is the start of a vicious cycle since the body recognizes it as an external invasion. This causes the growth of more cells in the arteries, which accumulate and further clog them with secretions. The ultimate result is blocked arteries or atherosclerosis.

What is the role of cholesterol here?

We have all heard that high cholesterol is bad for us. But why is that the case? After all, the body requires cholesterol to help some organs to function properly. To understand the reasoning, we need to learn more about cholesterol.

Essentially, cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. It travels in the blood in packets called lipoproteins. Here, it takes two forms:

  • Low-density lipoprotein a.k.a. “Bad” cholesterol: This makes up most of the body’s cholesterol. This cholesterol also builds up in your arteries and forms plaque.
  • High-density lipoprotein a.k.a. “Good” cholesterol: This is healthy cholesterol that absorbs excessive fatty substances in the blood and takes it to the liver. The liver then flushes them out of the body.

So, the next time you undergo a lipid profile, make sure your total cholesterol and HDL are in the normal range. High total cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, however, HDL has a protective effect on your body. 

Are blocked arteries dangerous?

Definitely. Blocked arteries worsen as you age and slowly affect the body. Plaque may begin accumulating in your arteries as early as when you are 20 or 30 years old but not show any effects until later. It takes significant years of build-up for it to be a significant threat.

Firstly, once the plaque reaches a certain size, the artery may become so narrow that the blood cannot pass through it anymore. Eventually, the plaque may rupture under mechanical stress as presented with longstanding blood pressure and weakening of the fibrous cap of the plaque. The most dangerous consequence can occur if the built-up plaque ruptures. This can lead to the complete blockage of the artery, causing a heart attack or even a stroke.

Unfortunately, there is no medication to completely melt away plaque i.e. to reverse blocked arteries. It can only be managed. To prevent potential health risks, it is up to us to have a healthy lifestyle and manage our risk factors.

5 Tips to slow down blocked arteries

Having a healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure that our bodies stay healthy. Especially in the case of atherosclerosis, managing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight are of the essence. Some of the lifestyle changes that will help are:

  1. Stopping smoking: Smoking increases the rate at which plaque builds up in the arteries.
  2. A well-balanced diet: Think more fruits and vegetables, lesser sugars, and food with less saturated fats, transfats, and cholesterol. Cut down on red meat, butter, cheese, etc.
  3. Exercising regularly: Keep your body weight in check with any exercise of your choice. We recommend 20-30 minutes of exercise every day (if you exercise daily).
  4. Manage your stress levels and cholesterol: Your stress can be brought down with a healthy lifestyle. Add yoga or meditation into the mix for a better effect. This helps you with controlling “bad” cholesterol as well!
  5. Manage your blood sugar level: Keeping your blood sugar level low also helps with slowing down atherosclerosis. Monitor it closely and follow the doctor’s advice to keep it under control.

If your doctor suspects that blocked arteries are decreasing your quality of life, then they may suggest medications as well. However, prevention is better than cure! Implement these changes to your lifestyle and stay healthy.

References:
  • “Clogged arteries”. WebMD. Reviewed by James Beckerman. Accessed on 23 August 2019. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/clogged-arteries-arterial-plaque#1
  • “The effects oh cholesterol on the body.”Healthline. Accessed on 23 August 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/cholesterol/effects-on-body#1
  • “Blocked arteries – causes and treatments”. British Heart Foundation. Accessed on 23 August 2018. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/blocked-arteries
  • “LDL & HDL cholesterol: “bad” and “good” cholesterol”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed on 23 August 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm

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