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Does anything reduce plaque in arteries?

Plaque buildup in arteries is a common condition that can lead to serious cardiovascular problems like heart attack and stroke. Plaque consists of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that accumulate on the inner walls of arteries. Over time, plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow, which can result in potentially life-threatening complications. The good news is that there are several effective ways to reduce plaque buildup and improve cardiovascular health. In this article, we will discuss the causes of arterial plaque, its risk factors, and proven approaches to decreasing plaque and preventing further buildup.

What causes plaque buildup in arteries?

Arterial plaque buildup is part of the process known as atherosclerosis. Here are some of the key factors that contribute to atherosclerosis and plaque formation:

– High cholesterol – Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) in the bloodstream can lead to plaque buildup as cholesterol accumulates on artery walls. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis.

– Inflammation – Damage to the arterial walls from high blood pressure, smoking, or other factors causes inflammation. The inflammation attracts plaque deposits.

– Calcification – Calcium builds up at the site of inflamed or damaged arteries, hardening the arteries and worsening plaque deposits.

– Blood compounds – Platelets and fibers circulating in the blood can accumulate on areas of plaque. This makes the deposits larger.

– Genetics – Some genetic factors are associated with a higher risk of plaque buildup and cardiovascular disease. Family history plays a role.

What are the risk factors for arterial plaque?

Certain risk factors make someone more likely to develop plaque in their arteries. Risk factors include:

– Older age – The risk rises as we get older. Plaque buildup usually gets worse over decades.

– Obesity – Being overweight or obese can increase plaque deposits.

– Diabetes – High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes accelerate atherosclerosis.

– Smoking – Chemicals in cigarettes damage arterial walls and make plaque buildup worse.

– High blood pressure – Increased force against artery walls causes small tears that allow plaque formation.

– High cholesterol – Particularly high LDL and low HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels.

– Insulin resistance – Reduced sensitivity to insulin is linked to plaque.

– Stress – Chronic stress and hypertension may increase plaque deposits.

– Sedentary lifestyle – Lack of regular physical activity increases the risk.

– Unhealthy diet – A diet high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar can cause atherosclerosis.

How can I tell if I have plaque buildup?

Plaque buildup in the arteries often does not cause obvious symptoms until it significantly impedes blood flow. Here are some possible signs of plaque deposits:

– Chest pain (angina) – Temporary pain, tightness, or discomfort in the chest that usually occurs with exertion. It’s caused by obstructed blood flow in the heart’s arteries.

– Leg pain with walking – Muscle pain or cramping in the legs when walking, caused by reduced blood flow in the legs’ arteries.

– Erectile dysfunction – Plaque accumulations in arteries supplying blood to the penis can impair erections.

– High blood pressure – Plaque-narrowed arteries require the heart to pump harder, raising blood pressure.

– Heart murmur – An abnormal heart sound your doctor hears through a stethoscope, often indicating narrowed heart valves due to plaque.

– Bulging neck arteries – Plaque buildup in the carotid arteries in the neck can cause bulging that’s visible and palpable.

Medical tests that detect plaque

Your doctor may run tests to check for plaque in your arteries if you have coronary heart disease risk factors or display any plaque symptoms. Tests to diagnose plaque deposits include:

Coronary calcium scan

– Uses CT scans to measure calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. More calcium correlates with more plaque.

Carotid ultrasound

– Uses soundwaves to produce images of the carotid arteries in the neck. Can identify blockages.

Ankle-brachial index

– Compares blood pressure in the ankles to blood pressure in the arms to diagnose peripheral artery disease.


– Involves injecting dye into the arteries via a catheter and taking x-ray images. Gives a detailed view of plaque buildup.

Cardiac CT scan

– CT images are taken of the heart’s arteries to identify plaque after dye injection.

Testing allows your doctor to determine the extent of plaque buildup, the level of risk it poses, and the most effective treatment approaches.

How to reduce existing plaque in arteries

If you already have built-up plaque in your arteries, your doctor may recommend medical procedures or medications to reduce it. Options include:

Angioplasty and stenting – A catheter with a small balloon is inserted into the blocked artery and inflated to compress the plaque. A wire mesh stent may be placed to keep the artery open. This restores blood flow.

Atherectomy – Using a small rotating shaver or laser, plaque can be surgically removed from artery walls through a catheter.

Bypass surgery – Artery segments from another part of your body can be grafted to bypass plaque-obstructed arteries and create new paths for blood circulation.

Plaque-stabilizing drugs – Statins, aspirin, anti-clotting drugs, and ACE inhibitors are often prescribed to stabilize existing plaque, reduce inflammation, and prevent clot formation.

These medical interventions can be very effective at clearing arteries of blockages and lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Natural remedies to reduce arterial plaque

In addition to medical procedures, many natural remedies and lifestyle changes may help reduce plaque deposits and enhance cardiovascular health. These include:

Consuming garlic – Garlic contains allicin and other compounds that may help prevent cholesterol accumulation and protect arteries.

Dietary changes – Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils promotes lower cholesterol and improved heart health.

Quitting smoking – Smoking directly damages arteries while also decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, and other foods, these healthy fats help fight inflammation and can reduce plaque deposits.

Losing weight – Shedding excess body fat takes pressure off the cardiovascular system and arteries while lowering LDL cholesterol.

Exercise – Regular aerobic activity including brisk walking, swimming, and cycling improves cholesterol profiles and artery flexibility.

Stress reduction – Techniques like yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage, and psychotherapy modulate the stress response for better heart health.

While natural remedies can potentially help reduce plaque, they should not replace medical treatment if you already have severe blockages or heart disease. Consult your doctor before trying alternative plaque remedies.

How to prevent arterial plaque from forming

Making certain long-term lifestyle changes can prevent plaque from accumulating in your arteries in the first place. Here are some top preventive measures:

– Maintain healthy cholesterol levels through diet, exercise, and medication if prescribed. Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.

– Eat a balanced diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil. Limit saturated fat, sugar, salt, and processed foods.

– Get regular aerobic exercise, strength training for your major muscle groups, and stretching. Even light activity like brisk walking helps.

– Lose weight if overweight and maintain a healthy body mass index through diet and exercise. Even a 5-10% weight loss can improve heart health.

– Manage chronic stress with yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other mind-body relaxation techniques. Make time for hobbies you enjoy.

– Take medications such as statins or fibrates as prescribed by your doctor to control cholesterol.

– Limit alcohol to moderate intake at most, such as 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men.

– Check your blood pressure regularly and take steps to lower high blood pressure.

Following an artery-healthy lifestyle helps prevent plaque accumulation and reduces cardiovascular disease risk significantly.

Foods that help remove plaque

Along with the lifestyle measures discussed above, some specific foods have properties that may help eliminate arterial plaque deposits:

Fatty fish – Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and other oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and lower triglycerides.

Olive oil – Replacing less healthy fats with extra virgin olive oil reduces LDL and raises HDL cholesterol.

Broccoli – Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is packed with antioxidants that improve artery health and function.

Avocados – Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and other nutrients, avocados help lower cholesterol.

Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds contain healthy fats, fiber, plant sterols and other beneficial compounds.

Tea – Green tea and black tea contain flavonoids and antioxidants that help relax blood vessels and improve circulation.

Turmeric – Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and plaque stabilization benefits.

Dark chocolate – High cacao and low sugar chocolate provides inflammation-reducing flavonoids. Choose at least 70% cacao.

Consult your doctor about specific dietary changes that may help reverse arterial plaque based on your cholesterol levels and overall health.


Plaque formation in the arteries is a potentially serious condition but also largely preventable through lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, losing weight, increasing physical activity, and eating a clean diet all help prevent arterial plaque deposits from forming. For existing plaque, medications, supplements, and even medical procedures are options for removal under a doctor’s supervision. By making arterial health a priority, it’s possible to prevent or even reverse plaque buildup and maintain good cardiovascular function.