Clogged arteries can lead to a variety of abnormal health conditions – some of them potentially life-threatening.
That’s because the arteries of our bodies are vital to our health. Without a fully-functioning system of arterial vessels, the blood in our body cannot be effectively delivered to our organs. As such, our lifestyles must be conducive to the health of these blood vessels.
Among these conditions are heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, an assortment of ailments can arise from clogged arteries, including the following: vision loss, heart attack, stroke, arthritis, and chronic pain. Here’s a worst-case scenario–they can cause death.
Although detecting possibly clogged arteries is more complicated than many other conditions, it is indeed feasible to identify congested arteries as a symptom. In identifying with any of these signs, we have the opportunity to seek medical care before severe health conditions arise.
Causes of clogged arteries:
According to a report by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, clogged arteries result from a condition called arteriosclerosis. That term indicates a dangerous hardening of the arteries. When fatty substances cling to the interior walls of your arteries, they eventually thicken into a plaque that narrows the passageway. This narrowing means that blood cannot flow through efficiently. Unfortunately, most people don’t exhibit symptoms until this happens.
The same report goes on to indicate that the leading causes of clogged arteries are as follows:
- Smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products
- An unhealthy diet; consuming excessive amounts of saturated fats
- Having diabetes
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Here are five signs you may have clogged arteries:
1. Lower back pain
The arteries of our lower back are among the first areas to accumulate plaque. As such, lower back pain is a common early symptom of artery blockage. Lower back pain can occur when reduced blood flow to the back weakens the discs that cushion the vertebrae – leading to painful herniated disks and pinched nerves.
An arterial defect in the back area is a quite common condition. Consider that roughly 10% of the population will demonstrate advanced blockages in their lower back by age 20. With this knowledge, it is beneficial to our children that they receive a physical at least once a year.
In a study done by the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, individuals that suffer from chronic back pain are at an increased risk of developing clogged lumbar arteries.
2. Calf pain
Arteriosclerosis – the thickening and hardening of the arterial walls – can also block the arteries that deliver blood to the legs. When this happens, it is common to experience pain in one or both calves, a condition known as intermittent claudication.
Those that smoke are in a higher risk class than those who do not. Regardless, if this symptom is detected, a doctor’s evaluation should be conducted ASAP. Simple blood tests can examine the pulses of the legs, in addition to a couple of other necessary criteria.
Fortunately, this is a very reversible condition. Eating more plant-based foods and fewer animal products can reverse claudication relatively quickly. In fact, calf pain can be relieved within a matter of weeks, and not occur again throughout life if you make the proper changes.
3. Discomfort or pain of the legs and feet
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a buildup of cholesterol and plaque that can occur in the extremities. PAD often results in discomfort in the feet and legs, potentially limiting the ability to walk. In worse cases, PAD is advanced enough to result in the loss of a limb.
Once again, simple tests will identify arterial conditions such as PAD. During a routine medical exam, a doctor will check the pulse of the feet. Besides, the doctor may also conduct a screening that determines the amount of blood flow to the ankle.
People that have frequent pain or tiredness in the legs should be checked for PAD. Past or current smokers have an increased risk of the disorder, as do those with a family history of PAD or other cardiovascular problems.
4. Ear creases
One of the more odd signs of clogged arteries is ear creases. Now, a momentary pause while about half of our readers stand in front of a mirror…Welcome back!
Seriously, medical reports have mentioned ear creases as a silent sign of coronary heart disease (CHD). More specifically, an ear crease that runs diagonally from the ear canal to the lower edge of the earlobe.
This one is a somewhat contentious sign of clogged arteries, although it may be worthwhile to schedule a routine checkup. Of course, ear creases can also be another physical sign of aging.
5. Erectile Dysfunction
Once again, the effects of clogged arteries directly relate to decreased blood flow. Our (ahem) private members are no different in this regard. Maintaining an erection requires that blood have an unobstructed path to this area.
According to research revealed by European Cariology Review, Erectile Dysfunction is a vascular disease. Therefore, Erectile Dysfunction at least indicates that some of the blood vessels on that path are not in ideal health. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to schedule a doctor visit to discuss these symptoms.
If you have any of these symptoms, seek advice from your primary care physician. If they concur with your suspicions, they will refer you to a cardiologist.
The cardiologist will then order testing to confirm whether you have clogged arteries and pinpoint the cause. Three of the most accurate heart testing measures include the following:
You’ll wear a portable monitor for a specific time (usually 24 hours). During the period, the machine will track any irregularities that might indicate insufficient blood flow into your heart.
This test produces an image of your heart via sound wave technology. This snapshot can identify any part of your heart that are not “pulling their weight” in pumping your blood.
Heart catheterization and angiogram
This procedure allows the cardiologist to observe how freely your blood pumps through your heart. The doctor injects a special dye into your arteries via a catheter. Then, they capture images that show any areas in which the dye fails to flow freely.
There are numerous other tests, as well. Don’t be surprised, for example, if they put you on a treadmill and run a stress test in conjunction with an echocardiogram. The cardiologist makes a specific plan for each patient.
Final Thoughts on Noticing the Signs of Clogged Arteries
Finally, know that having any of these signs is not a surefire indication of clogged arteries. A cardiologist will make the diagnosis and provide a treatment plan crafted uniquely to address your health needs. They will often make comprehensive recommendations regarding nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes, along with other treatment options.