Clogged Arteries (Arterial Plaque)
What are the dangers of arterial plaque and clogged arteries?
It depends on where arterial plaque accumulates. Clogged arteries in different parts of the body can lead to multiple medical conditions, including:
Coronary artery disease. When plaque accumulates in the arteries carrying blood to the heart, it results in coronary artery disease, or heart disease. This condition can lead to heart attacks and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
Carotid artery disease
. The carotid arteries run up either side of your neck. They supply oxygen to your brain. The accumulation of arterial plaque in the carotid arteries can lead to stroke.
Peripheral artery disease. If plaque builds up in the blood vessels that carry blood to your legs, it can reduce the amount of oxygen delivered. The reduced blood flow can cause you to experience pain, numbness, or serious infection in your legs and feet.
Do clogged arteries cause any symptoms?
In many instances, clogged arteries do not cause any symptoms until a major event, such as a heart attack or stroke, occurs.
At other times, especially when the the artery is blocked by 70% or more, the buildup of arterial plaque may cause symptoms that include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Weakness or dizziness
The first symptom, chest pain, is also called angina. It may result from reduced blood flow to the heart. That reduced blood flow is caused by plaque in the arteries leading to the heart.
Clogged arteries in carotid artery disease may cause stroke precursors known as transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs. TIAs may produce the following symptoms:
- Sensation of weakness or numbness on one side of your body
- Inability to move an arm or a leg
- Loss of vision on one side only
- Slurring of words
Clogged arteries in peripheral artery disease may cause:
- Leg pain
- Delayed healing of injuries to the feet
- Cold feet
Are there tests for clogged arteries?
Yes. There are several tests for clogged arteries. Your doctor will determine which tests to prescribe based on your symptoms and medical history. The tests may include:
- Cholesterol screening
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Echocardiogram and/or cardiac stress test
- MRI or PET scanning