Do you know the symptoms of blocked arteries? If your arteries are blocked, you may not be able to tell. You can’t feel a blocked artery, so many people don’t know they have a blocked artery until they have an emergency, such as a heart attack.
Fortunately, some lifestyle changes and treatments can help reduce the risk of developing blocked arteries. At Aurora Health Care, we offer comprehensive care for the prevention and treatment of blocked arteries.
What causes a blocked artery?
Arterial blockage is usually caused by atherosclerosis. This condition occurs when fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances build up in your arteries.
When atherosclerosis develops in the coronary arteries that send blood to your heart, it causes coronary artery disease. In fact, atherosclerosis is the most common cause of coronary artery disease.
Angina symptoms compared to heart attack symptoms
Chest pain (angina) is one of the most common symptoms of blocked arteries. But since it’s one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack, it can be difficult to know if chest pain is an emergency.
The difference is whether the chest pain goes away with rest. For example, you often experience angina when you exert physical exertion or have a strong emotional reaction. But the pain tends to go away with rest or relaxation. During a heart attack, chest pain persists even at rest.
Angina is not a disease. This is a symptom of a more serious disease, such as coronary artery disease. Angina pain is:
Start at the sternum (sternum).
Extend to left arm or shoulder
Radiate the chin or upper back
Other symptoms that may be associated with atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
Additional symptoms of arterial blockage include:
Dizziness or weakness
Palpitations, or the feeling that your heart is racing or pounding
Nausea or sweating
Shortness of breath
Your doctor may also use tests to detect signs of atherosclerosis, such as:
Weak or absent pulse
A bruit in your veins.
Low blood pressure in one of your arms or legs
What to do if you have symptoms of arterial blockage
If your chest pain worsens with movement and goes away with rest, contact your healthcare provider. You may need tests to detect or rule out a blocked artery.
If you suddenly experience chest pain without exerting yourself, it could be a sign of a heart attack. If you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
How to reduce the risk of arterial blockage
You can reduce your risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease by:
Maintain a nutritious diet
Manage stress with healthy coping techniques
If necessary, take medication to lower cholesterol or blood pressure
Atherosclerosis: Early detection is the best prevention
Atherosclerosis can be treated if diagnosed early. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear: Be proactive about your heart health.
When 35-year-old Amanda Boehner went into cardiac arrest, paramedics rushed her to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. But 45 minutes of heart surgery failed to revive him. His left anterior descending artery (LAD) was blocked. He suffered a heart attack, known as a “widow.”
Aurora St. Luke’s has the only 24/7 cardiac team in Wisconsin, and they got to work quickly. They inserted a stent to open the blocked artery and put Boehner on life support.
“Less than 10 percent of people live to the age he lived,” said Dr. William Fisher, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Aurora St. Luke’s. “Our ECMO machine was doing the work of his heart and lungs and keeping him alive.” But after two days, he woke up and was able to go home after a few days.