Prevent Plugged Arteries

There are several ways to prevent plugged arteries, which will translate into less heart attacks and strokes. The message is simple: if you get less heart attacks and strokes, you will live longer. Below I am examining ways to prolong life by various ways to prevent plugged arteries.

You probably heard of plaque formation in the arteries. This is the process where a combination of fat, calcium, cholesterol and cell waste forms a deposit (plaque) under the lining of the arteries.

The end result is that the blood won’t be flowing freely through the affected arteries. This can cause a heart attack or a stroke. Essentially, this is the point where a clot forms in the narrowed passage of the artery. It is also the point, when the clinicians make a diagnosis of a heart attack or a stroke.

Let’s examine what leads to plaque formation in the arteries.

Trans fats

Trans fats are contained in fried foods like French fries, in margarines and other butter substitutes. As margarine is a common ingredient of cakes, cookies, pastries and pies, these are all bad news for our heart health. I consider them off limits. If you eat those foods, you build up plaque in your arteries, which leads to premature heart attacks and strokes.

Lack of exercise

It has been common knowledge for a long time that being sessile leads to premature hardening of the arteries. In the late 1800s to the early 1900s physical exercise was promoted in various countries around the world.

The latter part of the 20th century saw a renaissance of the fitness movement. It was trendy to go running, cycling, and swimming or working out at a gym. It is not only trendy but healthy: cardiologists support all of these sports to help people stay healthy and keep the arteries free from plaque formation.

Too many refined carbs

Sugar and processed foods, especially those with added sugar to improve flavor, have a direct relationship to heart attacks and strokes. It is known that sugar causes high LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides. In addition sugar also causes inflammation of the arterial walls, which causes plugged arteries. However, sugar is only part of the problem. Starchy foods like rice, noodles, cakes, cookies and other foods made with flour get broken down into sugar. Both lead to insulin production. And both lead to changes of the lining of the arterial walls.

In the 1980s and 1990s there was a school of thought that a low fat diet would be healthy in terms of heart attack and stroke prevention (the low fat/high carb diet). This turned out to be a nutritional disaster: the high carb content of such a diet was the problem. It led to weight gain, obesity and death.

Red meat is a problem

Several studies have documented that saturated fat from red meat is only part of the problem. The other part is carnitine, which is abundantly present in beef, pork, lamb and venison. But mortality of people eating unprocessed red meat is only marginally elevated. It is when people eat processed red meat that there is a significant rise in mortality from heart attacks and strokes. This study examined this. They found that gut bacteria were stimulated by red meat to produce substances that stimulate bacteria in your gut to secrete TMA and TMAO, which makes your platelets more sticky and contributes to plugging your arteries. This research paper from the Cleveland Clinic explains it in more detail.

What must I do to prevent plugged arteries?

Eat the right food

A Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory. It contains lots of vegetables, but little red meat. Fish and chicken that contain much less L-carnitine are more dominant in Mediterranean food. As mentioned above, you want to avoid trans fats. And you also want to avoid sugar and too many starchy foods. This includes sugar-sweetened beverages. Making these changes will keep your insulin levels in the normal range eliminating inflammation in your arteries. Avoid eating processed foods, because they contain food preservatives and lots of sugar that we want to avoid. Eat more unsaturated fats like avocados, walnuts, olives, trout, herring, and salmon. The last three contain marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids that are particularly helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes by being anti-inflammatory and by elevating the protective HDL cholesterol. Drink lots of green or black tea, rooibos tea, or ginger tea. They contain antioxidants and bioflavonoids that prevent plugged arteries.

Regular exercise

Many publications have shown that regular physical exercise will lower blood pressure, condition your muscles including your heart and lower mortality.

Only 10 minutes of brisk walking every day reduced the death rate by 33% compared to those who did not exercise at all.

Regular physical exercise does not only prevent heart attacks and strokes, it also reduces the risk of getting another 35 chronic diseases, as the link shows.

Here are some common exercises: jogging, cycling, running, brisk walking, swimming, playing tennis and doing aerobics. All of them will strengthen your muscles and condition your heart and lungs.

Other ways to prevent plugged arteries

Smokers must quit smoking, as smoking has been identified as a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

Exposure to prolonged stress is a factor that leads to hardening of arteries. Stress management is possible by counseling, by self-hypnosis, yoga, tai chi and other relaxation methods.

Risk factors associated with plugged arteries

We already have mentioned the risk factors that are associated with clogged arteries. But for clarity I would like to repeat the major risk factors here.

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)
  • Reduced HDL cholesterol (HDL is increasing with exercise)
  • Obesity (often associated by ingestion of too many carbs)
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Lack of exercise (too much sitting in front of the TV or doing computer work)
  • Unhealthy diet (Standard American diet instead of Mediterranean diet)
Prevent Plugged Arteries

Prevent Plugged Arteries


We often think that we have no input whether or not we get a heart attack or a stroke. This is completely wrong. If you adopt the solutions I have listed here, you can change things for the better. You will reduce your risk to get a heart attack or a stroke. Treat high blood pressure. Stop smoking. Cut out sugar and starchy foods to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Exercise regularly and your HDL will protect you from heart attacks and strokes. Shed pounds, if you are obese by starting a Mediterranean diet and cutting out sugar. This will also improve your insulin resistance or diabetes. Start daily exercise as this reduces your risk of a heart attack or a stroke. In addition exercise reduces the risk of 35 chronic diseases that have also been mentioned in one of the links.


Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

The fear of gaining weight after quitting to smoke tends to be a fear among a number of smokers, but a study presented at the annual congress of the European Respiratory Society in Glasgow in 2004 may very well put these fears to rest.
Dr. Audrey Lynas, a respiratory specialist at Sunderland Royal Hospital reported a study on 622 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a late effect of smoking). The body mass index was not different from those who continued to smoke than those who were ex-smokers. Both groups had a BMI of 26, and five years down the line, they still haven’t put on any weight, reported Dr. Lynas.

According to a 2002 survey in Britain, 30% of female smokers and 14% of male smokers said, that they would not try to quit, as they were afraid of gaining weight. Even patients with COPD (the previously mentioned chronic obstructive lung disease) may be influenced by this fear, even though it is crucial for them to quit in order to stop the progression of their lung disease.

It seems logical, that quitting the cigarette habit is not associated with weight gain. However, if nibbling becomes a substitute for smoking, frequent snacks lead to an overload of calories.

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

Weight gain will be the consequence of the additional munching. Stop smoking is not the culprit for weight gain.

More on weight loss here:

Reference: The Medical Post October 5, 2004, page 7

Last edited Oct. 27, 2014

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China Blows Alarm Whistle On Smoking

The risks of smoking are being addressed in China, where roughly 300 million people or one quarter of the population are puffing away. The number is rising by about 3 million new smokers each year, and according to statistics of the WHO 700,000 die each year from smoking.

In November of 2003 China joined the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a subsidiary of the World Health Organization. As a member China is now obliged to tighten restrictions on cigarette marketing and consumption.
Due to an economic boom in the country foreign tobacco giants are putting their hope into this rising market, as revenue has decreased elsewhere in the world. So far tobacco taxes, which are collected from the 1.7 trillion cigarettes sold in China amount to 8 billion $US or one tenth of government revenue. In the wake of SARS, however, the realization has come to the forefront, that health care cost have a severe impact on the economy of a country. Despite the seemingly enticing short-term gain from tobacco tax revenue, short cuts in health care can economically damage a country in the long run.

Health officials will have a battle with their counterparts in finance, when it comes to implementing tobacco control. In some areas of the country the sale of tobacco products to children has been banned and an attempt has been made to restrict cigarette commercials.

China Blows Alarm Whistle On Smoking

Quit smoking!

Powerful tobacco lobby groups actively undermine these efforts.
It is encouraging to see at least a beginning of public education about the risks of smoking. However, in a nation where cigarette manufacturing and consumption are the highest worldwide, it will be a long and arduous journey to clear the air to better health.

Based on The Lancet 363, No. 9402 (Jan. 3, 2004)

Last edited December 8, 2012