What Causes Plaque in the Arteries?
- fatty substances
- cellular waste products
There is a constant flow of blood through your arteries that brings nutrients and oxygen to your organs. When plaque builds up in the arteries, it causes them to become clogged. When this happens, they lose their elasticity and narrow.
Over time, this plaque can harden, which causes the artery to become blocked. This, in turn, hinders or stops the blood flow through the arteries.
This buildup tends to start with some kind of damage to the arteries. Certain risk factors — such as genetics, medical conditions, and unhealthy lifestyle habits — can lead to this damage.
Complications from plaque buildup in arteries
One major complication of plaque buildup in the arteries is the risk that part of the plaque will rupture. If this happens, a blood clot will form at the site. This is your body’s natural reaction to try to heal the area where the rupture occurred. However, the clot can then block the blood flow through the artery. The lack of blood flow can starve your body and organs of vital oxygen and nutrients, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Plaque buildup in the arteries is a progressive condition that can begin as early as childhood. The exact cause of this is not completely known. However, researchers believe that the process begins with damage to the artery.
Possible causes of this damage include:
Although the cause may be unknown, there are risk factors that can play a role in the progression of the buildup in your arteries.
Risk factors for plaque buildup in the arteries
The following factors may increase your risk of plaque buildup in the arteries:
Certain components in foods can also accelerate the plaque buildup in your arteries. These components include:
- saturated fats
- trans fats
- salt, or sodium
Although you may not be able to completely prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, you can reduce it, slow the progression, and reduce your risk of future complications.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of complications from plaque buildup is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Some ways you can do this include:
- not smoking
- eating a balanced diet
- being active
- trying to maintain a moderate weight
- limiting your alcohol intake
- managing stress
Important foods for heart health
Certain foods and beverages can help you maintain a healthy heart. These include:
- oily fish
- fruits and vegetables
- legumes, nuts, and seeds
- whole grains
- foods containing vitamin E
Plaque in your arteries is a progressive condition that can begin in childhood. The exact cause is unknown, but there are certain risk factors that can accelerate the buildup.
You can reduce the risk of complications and slow the buildup by living a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet.
Contact your doctor if you are at risk of heart disease or have any questions about plaque buildup in your arteries.