How can I find out if I have clogged arteries?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygenated blood throughout your body. When a build-up of plaque clogs an artery, it can reduce or completely block blood flow. Clogged arteries are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

 

What are the symptoms?

There are a few symptoms that you should definitely pay attention to. These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness in your chest
  • Weakness on one side of your body
  • Loss of vision in one or both of your eyes
  • Cramps during exercise (claudication) - leg cramps are more common but they can also happen in the arms

As mentioned earlier, clogged arteries are caused by a build-up of plaque. It usually causes problems much later in life, commonly in people above 65 years old [1]. That said, the first signs of plaque can be seen even in children and adolescents [2].

 

How is it diagnosed?

If you suspect that you have clogged arteries, it is best to get a consultation as soon as possible. You will need to take some tests so that your doctor can diagnose your condition. Depending on the symptoms you show, tests can include:

  • Cholesterol screening
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT, MRI, or PET scanning
  • Angiogram
  • Chest ultrasound

You can ask your doctor to see which tests are needed.

In general, anyone above 40 should start getting regular cardiovascular risk assessments. This might include an ECG or a treadmill test. You can find the general recommendation from the Ministry of Health here.


References:

1. National Institute on Aging. Heart Health and Aging. Published 2018. Accessed January 14, 2020.

2. McGill HC, McMahan CA, Herderick EE, Malcom GT, Tracy RE, Strong JP. Origin of atherosclerosis in childhood and adolescence. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72(5):1307s-1315s. doi:10.1093/ajcn/72.5.1307s ‌

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