What are the dangers of a blocked artery?

Arteries are a type of blood vessel. They carry oxygenated blood to various organs of the body. If cholesterol builds up in the blood, it can stick to the walls of the arteries. The arteries can be partially or completely blocked. This condition is sometimes called hardening of the arteries and can cause a variety of serious health problems.

Because arteries are found throughout the body, symptoms and possible dangers depend on which artery is blocked. For example, one of the most common areas for a blocked artery to occur is in the coronary artery. If the coronary artery is blocked and blood flow is restricted to parts of the heart, various symptoms can occur, including chest pain, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath.

If the blockage becomes severe enough, blood flow to part of the heart can be cut off completely, and the heart muscle can be damaged. This is commonly called a heart attack. The amount of damage to the heart muscle will vary depending on the extent of the blockage.

A diagnosis can be made by cardiac catheterization. This procedure allows the doctor to see the arteries and check for blockages. Treatment may include a procedure to open the blocked artery, called angioplasty or heart bypass surgery.

Arteries located in other parts of the body, such as the carotid artery in the neck, can also become blocked. When the carotid artery becomes blocked, blood flow to the brain can be interrupted. This can cause a stroke, which can cause temporary or permanent damage to the brain. Although the type of damage depends on which area of ​​the brain is affected, common symptoms of a stroke include weakness, slurred speech, headache, and confusion.

Blockages in the renal arteries, which supply blood to the kidneys, can also occur. This can cause symptoms, such as high blood pressure and possibly kidney failure. If the femoral artery, which supplies blood to the leg, becomes blocked, it can cause pain and weakness in the leg. Additional symptoms may include numbness and foot sores.

Since a blocked artery can be so dangerous, prevention is essential. Risk factors for developing a blocked artery include having high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol. Additional risks include being overweight and smoking. To reduce your chances of developing a blocked artery, eat foods low in saturated fat, exercise regularly, stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and have your cholesterol checked at least once a year.

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