Blocked Arteries is always talk about clog in our blood flow.
Circulatory in human is a complex system. This circular responsible for :
- collecting oxygenated blood from lungs, and supplying it to every tissue of the body via arteries.
- collecting the deoxygenated blood from body tissues via veins, and circulating it to the lungs for oxygenation.
Healthy arteries have a smooth lining. However, sometimes small tears in the inner arterial lining causes some of the circulating substances to accumulate in the arterial walls. These include fats, cholesterol, calcium, fibrin (protein involved in blood clotting), inflammatory cells, proteins and cellular wastes. The deposits of these cells and molecules harden to form plaques, which lead to clogging of arteries, and narrowing of arterial lumen.
Such hardening of arterial walls is called atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis or artery disease. As a result of this, blood supply to the respective tissue is partially or totally restricted (ischemia) leading to tissue damage or death, depending upon the degree of blockage.
The largest artery as we know namely as “Aorta”. Originates from the left ventricle, and further branches out into a network of arteries that provide oxygen, nutrients and other vital metabolites to every cell of the body. Atherosclerosis can occur in any artery of the body, thereby compromising the blood supply to that particular organ or tissue.
Blockage and its Symptoms
The precise signs and symptoms depend on the type of artery affected, and are usually manifested when there is a substantial or total blockage in the artery. Given below is a list of the commonly affected arteries, the organs/tissues which depend on them for blood supply, and the corresponding symptoms indicative of a blockage.
The coronary artery is responsible for blood supply to the heart muscles. The narrowing and clogging of these arteries is termed coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease (CHD). Extensive blockage leads to weakening of heart muscles and:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Cardiac arrest
- Heart attack
The left and right carotid arteries are involved in blood supply to the brain and facial tissues. Their blockage is termed as carotid artery disease (CAD), and is the leading reason for strokes. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of balance
- Severe headache
- Difficulty in speaking
- Numbness in the face
- Weakness of facial muscles
- Blindness in one eye
- Inability to move limbs
- Weakness in one side of the body
This artery and its branches are the major blood vessels that supply blood to the cerebellum, medulla oblongata, vertebral column and arms. Subclavian artery stenosis or blockage affects hand muscles as well as certain neurological functions leading to:
- Recurrent vertigo
- Balance problems
- Double vision
- Abnormal eye movements
- Hearing loss
- Pain in hand muscles
- Red or white patches on hands
Celiac and Mesenteric Artery
The celiac artery as well as the superior and inferior mesenteric arteries supply blood to the gastrointestinal organs of the body. Narrowing of these arteries affects the digestion and absorption processes, and leads to the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain after meals
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
The aortic branches that supply blood to the kidneys are called renal arteries. Narrowing or blockage in these arteries leads to an increase in blood pressure, a condition termed as renovascular hypertension (RVH). Severe blockage alters kidney function which leads to:
- Generalized itching
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Swelling of ankles and legs
- Dry skin
- Sleep difficulties
- Increase/decrease in urine output
In the region located just below the navel, the aorta branches out into two iliac arteries, which further branch out to ensure blood supply to the legs. Hampered blood flow through the iliac arteries leads to weakening, and even damage, of leg muscles which is manifested as:
- Numbness in legs
- Pain in the leg muscles
- Leg sores
- Difficulty while walking
- Tingling sensation in feet or toes
How to Diagnosis
Apart from a physical examination, and the review of symptoms as well as medical history, several imaging and pathological tests are useful to detect blocked arteries. Symptoms and their severity is an important criteria in deciding the diagnostic investigations to be performed.
- ‘Bruit’ is an unusual sound that arises due to the turbulent flow of blood across the arterial obstruction. This sound can be detected by using a stethoscope.
- Ankle brachial pressure index (ABPI), the ratio of systolic blood pressure in the arms and the ankle, is determined. The normal value of ABPI under resting condition is 1.0, and values below 0.9 are indicative of arterial obstruction.
- Pathological investigations include blood tests for evaluating the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, sugar as well as certain proteins and hormones.
- Imaging techniques used include radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), computerized tomography (CT), doppler ultrasound and stress tests. These tests indicate the exact location and the degree of blockage. Electrocardiogram (ECG) and electroencephalogram (EEG) are obtained to detect abnormalities in heart and brain function.
- Invasive imaging techniques like angiography may be advised to confirm the presence of blocked arteries and determine the location.
- Blood thinning agents like aspirin to decrease clot formation
- Thrombolytic drugs to dissolve blood clots (if any)
- Vasodilators that help to widen the arteries and reduce blood pressure
- Drugs to lower cholesterol levels
- Analgesics to reduce pain
Dietary modifications and increase in physical activity through regular exercise are a vital part of the treatment prescribed for arterial blockages. These help in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the cholesterol levels, thereby decreasing the chances of more blockages. Some of the recommendations are as follows.
- Do not opt for processed foods containing refined carbohydrates, sugars, artificial sweeteners and sodium.
- Include ample of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid or reduce the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods.
- Choose foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Avoid large and heavy meals. Instead, eat smaller meals 4-6 times a day.
- Refrain from addictive habits like smoking, tobacco consumption and binge drinking.
- Ensure regular exercise for at least 30-40 minutes per day, along with stress-relieving practices like meditation and breathing exercises.