Nov 25

Plaque in the Arteries and How to Avoid It

Often, the root cause of peripheral and carotid artery diseases is a condition known as atherosclerosis, which occurs as plaque builds up inside the arteries and prevents blood from reaching certain parts of the body. The plaque consists of fat, cholesterol, and calcium that hardens over time and constricts the pathways that allow oxygen-rich blood to flow to organs and parts of the body, leading to cardiovascular problems that could culminate in a heart attack or stroke.

While the plaque builds up over time, there are a few things you can do to slow this process or even reverse the condition.

1. Begin a Heart Healthy Eating Plan

One of the major culprits of plaque buildup is a diet high in sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats. Foods that contain excess amounts of these should be limited when possible. These foods include:

  • Fatty cuts of meat and processed meats
  • Whole-milk dairy foods
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Coconut and Palm Oil
  • Corn syrup
  • Sweetened drinks including sodas, fruit juices, sweetened caffeinated drinks (such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks), among others.
  • Other Sweets: cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, jams, syrups

Additionally, it is recommended that alcohol consumption should be strongly limited or eliminated entirely from your diet.

As alternatives, here are foods you can add to your diet that can contribute to boosting your overall heart health:

  • Vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots and cabbage
  • Fruits such as bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, and berries
  • Health proteins such as fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, soy, and legumes (beans, lentils, etc.)
  • Healthy oils and fats: nut butters, olive oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, avocados
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain bread

2. Exercise

Try as much as possible to stay active. Routine, consistent exercise can help lower risk factors such as bad cholesterol levels, which can help reduce the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries. At minimum, it’s recommended to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise per week. Even brisk walking or light jogging can help improve your cardiovascular health significantly.

Depending on your current health, talking with your doctor could be recommended before starting an exercise plan. Stay safe, but prioritize getting at least some exercise in your routine. When possible, avoid sitting for too long and break up your sitting with physical activity.

3. Stop Smoking

Among the most important changes to make to help reduce plaque buildup in the arteries is to quit smoking. Smoking tightens the blood vessels, contributing to atherosclerosis and exacerbating cardiovascular diseases. Even if you don’t smoke, be aware of second-hand smoke and avoid it as you can.

Cigarette smoking currently causes 1 in every 5 deaths in the U.S. each year. Smoking raises the risk of heart disease significantly and is especially dangerous when combined with other risk factors such as obesity or diabetes.

Scheduling Your Scan

While requesting a screening with no symptoms or one risk factor (i.e. high cholesterol) is not always advised due to the risk of misdiagnosis, showing signs of any of the symptoms of artery disease should prompt a scan. A family history of artery diseases is also a factor to consider and could warrant a scan if other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, occur.

To schedule your scan or ask questions, you can visit this page to learn more or call us at 918-879-6161.


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