Your Heart is at Risk
Your Heart is at Risk
Plaque and blood clots in the coronary
arteries reduce blood flow to the heart:
When a coronary artery narrows,
less blood and oxygen flow to the heart muscle. The decreased blood flow can cause
symptoms of angina. This is often felt as temporary pain or pressure in or near the
chest. This can also feel like pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulder.
When a coronary artery narrows
too much, very little blood and oxygen reach the heart muscle beyond the site of
narrowing. If a clot forms, blood flow in the artery may stop. This can result in
heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). If the muscle goes without oxygen for
long, that part of the heart muscle dies.
Your whole body is at risk
Plaque buildup in arteries can lead
to problems throughout the body. Common sites of artery problems include:
Brain. Arteries in the brain
or leading to the brain (carotid arteries) can become blocked. When this happens,
blood flow to that part of the brain is reduced and that part of the brain can’t
get the oxygen it needs. That portion of the brain is damaged. This is a stroke
Kidneys. If an artery that
carries blood to the kidneys is narrowed, the kidneys have a hard time filtering
blood. This can lead to kidney damage.
Aorta. This is the body’s
main artery. It connects directly to the heart and carries oxygenated blood from
the heart to the body. If this artery wall is damaged, the weakened section of the
artery can expand out like a balloon. This is called an aortic aneurysm. Over
time, an aneurysm may get larger and weaker, and at risk to burst (rupture). This
can cause life-threatening bleeding.
Legs. If arteries in the legs
are clogged and narrowed with plaque, you can have cramping or aching in the
buttocks, thighs, or calves when walking. This results from less blood flow to the
muscles of the legs. The pain may be relieved with rest. This is called
claudication (to limp). It may be a symptom of peripheral artery disease.
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.