The key is lowering LDL and making lifestyle changes.
High blood levels of cholesterol encourage the formation and growth of vascular plaques that put you at risk for heart attack and stroke. So, can we reduce plaque buildup? "Making plaque disappear is not possible, but we can shrink and stabilize it," says cardiologist Dr. Christopher Cannon, a Harvard Medical School professor.
Plaque forms when cholesterol (above, in yellow) lodges in the wall of the artery.
What causes plaque in arteries?
Plaque forms when cholesterol lodges in the wall of the artery. To fight back, the body sends white blood cells to trap the cholesterol, which then turn into foamy cells that ooze more fat and cause more inflammation. That triggers muscle cells in the artery wall to multiply and form a cap over the area. But the soft plaque beneath the cap is dangerous. "For example, if your blood pressure spikes, it puts pressure on the thin wall of the plaque, which can break open, form a clot, and cause a heart attack," says Dr. Cannon. About three of every four heart attacks occur when plaques rupture.
Larger plaques can block blood flow. But they are typically covered by thick, fibrous caps that can resist breaking apart. These are often treated by inserting a wire mesh tube (stent) near the blockage to widen the artery.
Treatment for plaque buildup
Doctors target smaller, unstable plaque. "If we have a 30% blockage in the artery from soft plaque, the goal is to try to suck out the cholesterol from the inside, so the plaque shrivels down to 15% and leaves nothing inside it," says Dr. Cannon.
How do you get the cholesterol out of the plaque? By lowering levels of cholesterol in the blood, where it travels inside particles called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) deposits cholesterol into blood vessel walls. The drugs used most often to reduce LDL cholesterol levels are statins—such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor). Statins block the liver enzyme that promotes cholesterol production. Another medication called ezetimibe (Zetia) may be added to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. "Shrinking plaques with strong statins has been seen when you get LDL below 70 (mg/dL)," says Dr. Cannon. Harvard Health Letter
Very intensive lifestyle changes have also been shown to shrink plaque. Dr. Cannon recommends that you:
- Eat a Mediterranean diet.It can reduce heart disease risk by 30%. It is rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish; low in red or processed meats; and moderate in the amounts of cheese and wine you can consume.
- Kick the habit.Smoking damages the lining of the arteries. Quitting can help raise HDL levels.
- Exercise.Aerobic exercise can raise HDL, lower blood pressure, burn body fat, and lower blood sugar levels. Exercise combined with weight loss can also lower LDL levels. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Busting the cholesterol myth
Why you can't live without this tricky substance.
Cholesterol is often vilified as the bad guy, but we need this waxy, fatty substance to make vitamin D, hormones, bile that aids digestion, and the coverings of our cells. The liver produces 75% of the body's cholesterol, but all cells have the ability to make it.
When cells need more cholesterol, the liver sends it via the bloodstream in packages made of cholesterol on the inside and protein on the outside. These cholesterol-laden particles are known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. Too much LDL in the blood can cause cholesterol to lodge in the artery walls and form plaques. That's why LDL is known as "bad" cholesterol.
Not surprisingly, high levels of cholesterol in the diet raise blood levels of LDL. But high levels of saturated fat and trans fat in the diet are even more important: they cause the liver to produce lots of LDL cholesterol and send it into the blood.
Whereas LDL particles deposit cholesterol into plaques of atherosclerosis, some high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles help remove cholesterol from plaques. That's why it's often referred to as "good" cholesterol. How much HDL and LDL should you aim for? An HDL of 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or greater is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Many doctors prescribe statins and lifestyle changes to get LDL levels below 70 mg/dL in people at high risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. Recent guidelines recommend that statins be prescribed regardless of the LDL level in people at high risk of heart attack because of cardiac risk factors (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking).
Can we reduce vascular plaque build up? ›
Yes, lifestyle changes, including diet, smoking cessation, stress management and exercise, can decrease the size of atherosclerotic plaques. They can also help to stabilize them so that they are less likely to break off and block blood flow, decreasing your risk of a heart attack.How do you reduce vascular plaque? ›
- Eating a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, with less sugars and simple carbohydrates, and rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Not smoking.
- Exercising regularly.
- Managing stress levels.
- Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol down.
There are no quick fixes for melting away plaque, but people can make key lifestyle changes to stop more of it accumulating and to improve their heart health. In serious cases, medical procedures or surgery can help to remove blockages from within the arteries.How much pomegranate juice to unclog arteries? ›
According to a recent study, drinking as little as two ounces of pomegranate juice daily has shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and cleanse plaque from arteries—all good news for your heart.Can you reverse plaque buildup in your arteries with diet? ›
Eating specific foods cannot cleanse plaques out of the arteries, but a healthful diet can help manage and prevent heart disease. Over time, plaque buildup can lead to thickened or hardened arteries. This is a condition known as atherosclerosis.Can vascular plaque be reversed? ›
The key is lowering LDL and making lifestyle changes.
"Making plaque disappear is not possible, but we can shrink and stabilize it," says cardiologist Dr. Christopher Cannon, a Harvard Medical School professor. Plaque forms when cholesterol (above, in yellow) lodges in the wall of the artery.
Changes to your lifestyle can help prevent and slow the progression of coronary calcification. These can include: Dieting (especially to limit cholesterol, fat and sodium) Exercising.Does everyone have plaque in arteries? ›
Plaque build-up in arteries is, unfortunately, a natural part of living. Even children and adolescents have early evidence of the process. However, diet and other lifestyle factors play an important role. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking can all worsen atherosclerosis.What eats plaque in arteries naturally? ›
- Fish. ...
- Seeds & Nuts. ...
- Green Vegetables. ...
- Olive Oil. ...
- Berries. ...
- Avocado. ...
- Broccoli. ...
Allium veggies like garlic, onions, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots are all rich in organosulfur compounds, which, according to several studies, may help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, and platelet clumping — all of which are great for keeping arteries free and clear.
What Israeli drink cleans arteries? ›
Now, Israeli scientists have shown that the combination of pomegranate juice and dates along with their pits provide maximum protection against atherosclerosis (plaque buildup or hardening of the arteries), which can cause a heart attack or stroke.How long does it take for pomegranate juice to unclog arteries? ›
Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation.What is the best fruit for your arteries? ›
Berries. Berries include blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries. These fruits are associated with an impressive amount of health benefits, including their ability to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.Do statins dissolve plaque in arteries? ›
Statins help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in the blood. They draw cholesterol out of plaque and stabilize plaque, Blaha says.Does lemon water clean arteries? ›
Lemon acts as an antioxidant in the body and helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Lemon peels which contain citrus flavonoids play a role in the treatment of insulin resistance, and can help prevent clogged arteries.Does magnesium dissolve arterial plaque? ›
In vitro (15–19) and animal (19–23) studies suggest biological mechanisms through which magnesium may prevent or reverse plaque formation and calcification.Can artery plaque be removed naturally? ›
You can “unclog” your arteries with natural methods, including diet, exercise, and stress management. Quitting smoking, if you smoke, can also help reverse plaque.How do you reverse plaque in arteries? ›
Completely reversing it isn't possible yet. But taking a statin can reduce the risk of complications from atherosclerosis. It fights inflammation, which stabilizes the plaque. For this reason, statins are often key to treating atherosclerosis.Can you have high cholesterol and not have plaque in your arteries? ›
In fact, a person can have high cholesterol and a zero CAC score. When both scores are high, a doctor may recommend taking statins to help lower cholesterol levels.Is it normal to have plaque in arteries as you age? ›
Because there are several modifiable risk factors for atherosclerosis, it is not necessarily a normal part of aging. Plaque builds up inside the walls of your arteries and, over time, hardens and narrows your arteries, which limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.
What is the average age for clogged arteries? ›
By the age of 40, about half of us have cholesterol deposits in our arteries, Sorrentino says. After 45, men may have a lot of plaque buildup. Signs of atherosclerosis in women are likely to appear after age 55.What can dissolve plaque? ›
The best way to remove the build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth is by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Daily flossing and using an antiseptic mouthwash will help to keep bacteria at bay in hard-to-reach areas.What fruit removes plaque arteries? ›
- Berries. Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and raspberries are best. ...
- Tomatoes. ...
- Onions. ...
- Citrus Fruits. ...
- Cruciferous Vegetables. ...
- Leafy Greens. ...
- Beans. ...
Promote heart health.
Multiple studies have found that apples effectively lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while simultaneously helping eliminate excess cholesterol from the veins and arteries – thereby helping prevent cardiovascular disease.
For example, the fiber in oatmeal can lower our blood cholesterol levels so that less gets stuck in our arteries, but there also are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients in oats that can prevent atherosclerotic build-up and then help maintain arterial function (see Can Oatmeal Reverse Heart Disease?).Does lemon remove plaque from arteries? ›
Can lemon reduce plaque in arteries? MIAMI (AP) _ Eating citrus can reduce cholesterol plaque in clogged arteries and help reverse atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, researchers said Wednesday.What drinks clear arteries? ›
- Pomegranate juice. According to experts, pomegranates are uniquely healthy fruits for your heart. ...
- Coffee. ...
- Tea. ...
- Tomato juice. ...
- Green juice. ...
Calcification in coronary artery disease can be reversed by EDTA-tetracycline long-term chemotherapy. Pathophysiology.Can buildup in arteries be reversed? ›
Medical treatment, regular exercise, and dietary changes can be used to keep atherosclerosis from getting worse and stabilize the plaque, but they aren't able to reverse the disease.Does everyone have plaque in their arteries? ›
Plaque build-up in arteries is, unfortunately, a natural part of living. Even children and adolescents have early evidence of the process. However, diet and other lifestyle factors play an important role. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking can all worsen atherosclerosis.
What foods cause vascular calcification? ›
The study, published Aug. 13 in Science, suggests that consuming food rich in saturated fat and choline - a nutrient found in red meat, eggs and dairy products - increases the number of metabolites that build plaques in the arteries.Can too much vitamin D cause vascular calcification? ›
It has long been known from case series that vitamin D excess can lead to atherosclerosis and vascular calcification in humans. In the 1980s, ecological studies provided data that deficient human vitamin D status may also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).How can I reverse hardening of my arteries naturally? ›
- Fatty Fish. ...
- Flax Seeds. ...
- Berries. ...
- Citrus Fruits. ...
- Extra virgin olive oil. ...
- Avocado. ...
- Legumes. ...
Through angioplasty, our cardiologists are able to treat patients with blocked or clogged coronary arteries quickly without surgery. During the procedure, a cardiologist threads a balloon-tipped catheter to the site of the narrowed or blocked artery and then inflates the balloon to open the vessel.How long does it take for plaque to build up in arteries? ›
Plaques begin in artery walls and grow over years. The growth of cholesterol plaques slowly blocks blood flow in the arteries.