Arteries are the vital blood vessels of your body, which have a hollow tubular shape to conduct blood from one place to another. Their chief role is to deliver nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to every organ, tissue, and cell. Unfortunately, while arteries are essential for exchanging gases, sugars, and nutrients, millions of people neglect to care for them. As a result, blocked arteries are one of the leading causes of death globally, according to the World Health Organisation. In conclusion, a healthy artery equals a healthier and happier heart.
As Hippocrates, the Greek founder of western medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” a healthy dietary perspective is essential. Not only is a healthy diet good for your heart, but it improves the overall quality of your life. Instead of refined grains and sugars, think veggies, olive oil, fish, nuts, and low-glycemic fruits. In addition, eating foods with known cardiovascular benefits is a brilliant idea to cleanse your arteries.
Arteries and Their Role
Arteries form a significant part of the cardiovascular system and transport blood from the heart to other body regions. They’re elastic blood vessels and are strong enough to withstand the high pumping pressure exerted by your heart.
Based on their roles, arteries classify as two.
Pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs. Here, the blood becomes oxygenated. It plays a role in removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen into the blood.
Systemic arteries are part of the systemic circulation and deliver oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. It plays a vital role in supplying blood to the head, heart, and lower body regions.
Foods and Beverages for Healthy Arteries
1. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate is considered one of the most promising heart-protective agents. It is laden with unique antioxidants that can prevent and even reverse the effect of cardiovascular disease on arteries. The carotid arteries are often prone to atherosclerosis, leading to thicker and narrowed arteries.
A study shows that people who consumed pomegranate juice regularly showed about a 30% reduction in the carotid thickness. Thus, pomegranate juice can reverse existing atherosclerosis.
Pomegranate juice prevents damage to arterial walls by improving the blood flow and combating free-radical assault. The primary protective mechanism behind pomegranate juice includes the following.
- Inhibiting the oxidation of LDL, which is a potentially harmful bad cholesterol
- It supports nitric oxide synthesis, essential for anti-inflammatory effects on arteries.
- It reduces oxidative stress.
2. Orange Juice
Drinking orange juice helps prevent the hardening of the arteries. Furthermore, it is a well-liked beverage for clearing or unclogging the arteries. The presence of hesperidin, a natural plant chemical, in orange juice confers the ability to prevent narrowing and hardening of the arteries. It, in turn, makes the arteries more pliable and wide open. In addition, orange juice nourishes the cells lining your arteries as it is a vitamin-C-rich drink.
Findings from a study show that people who consumed orange juice consistently had an excellent antioxidant status, good for the arteries and heart in general. However, drink in moderation to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Check out: Healthy Orange Juice Recipes
3. Tomato Juice
It is common knowledge that one cup of tomato juice keeps heart disease at bay. Lycopene found in tomatoes considerably reduces the impairment of arteries. The potent antioxidants supplied by tomato juice helps reduce fat buildup in your arteries. What’s more, it controls high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are the two factors behind artery damage. Drink the juice of fresh tomatoes to reap better benefits.
4. Green Tea
Sipping green tea for weight loss and clear skin is old news. However, nowadays, green tea is famous for its notably positive effects on clogged arteries. One study, for example, raises the possibility that people who consumed more green tea were less likely to have coronary artery disease. In addition, green tea offers catechins polyphenol compounds, which decrease the proteinous adhesive molecules responsible for clogged arteries. Hence, if you go for green tea, it is analogous to sipping your way to healthier arteries.
A dozen varieties of berries are available, such as strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries. They are all similar in one significant aspect; the abundance of heart-healthy, flavonoid antioxidants in them. After all, antioxidants boost heart health and support the arteries.
Several studies focus on how berries guard the arteries by preventing atherosclerosis. For instance, it offers quercetin and anthocyanins, two essential polyphenol compounds. They keep the arteries clear and free from plaque deposition. In addition, these compounds regulate bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Moreover, berries are unlikely to spike blood sugar compared to other fruits.
6. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds aid in preventing clogging of the arteries as they have rich fibre content. It is considered a superfood for heart health. Along with fibre, flaxseeds provide plant-based omega-3s and antioxidants called lignans. These halt atherosclerotic plaques progression in the arteries by lowering total cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Whole flax seeds are not easy to digest, so make sure to eat ground flax seeds for maximum benefits.
Walnuts are always a good option if you’re looking for something with healthy fat, protein, and fibre. Of all nuts, it has an impressive ability to maintain the function of arteries and protect them against atherosclerosis risk factors. Moreover, including walnuts in a high-fat diet can reduce plaque deposition in the arteries by 55%. Walnuts help to loosen the adhesive molecules responsible for hardening the arteries. It also increases the elasticity of arteries by 64%, making it easier for blood flow.
8. Dark Chocolate
There are a lot of reasons to love dark chocolate. If you’re a chocoholic looking for heart-healthy treats, then dark chocolate is the one for you! It contains cocoa flavonols, a polyphenol compound, which improves blood flow through the arteries. In addition, research shows that cocoa flavanols repair damaged arteries. More specifically, dark chocolate reverses the vascular damage that can clog arteries. In addition, it decreases inflammation in the arteries by boosting nitric oxide production. Consider pairing low to no-sugar dark chocolate with walnuts to get added benefits for your arteries.
Eating beets, be it yellow, red, or rainbow is suitable for healthier blood flow through the arteries. However, the dietary nitrates in beets get converted into nitric oxide, which relaxes and widens the arteries. Thus, reducing pressure on the artery walls and preventing their damage. You can eat beets by tossing them into a smoothie or just making a simple beet juice.
10. Allium Vegetables
Allium vegetables commonly include shallots, chives, leeks, onions, and garlic. They supply a healthy dose of organosulfur compounds, which reduce platelet clumping, inflammation, and cholesterol. It, in turn, keeps the arteries clear and free from harmful deposits. Furthermore, allium veggies also increase nitric oxide availability to improve artery health.
Spices like cinnamon are not just for cooking and aromatherapy, but it works wonders for your arteries. Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon has anticoagulant properties. It creates a protective shield for the arteries and other blood vessels. A spoonful of cinnamon a day can keep the risk of heart disease at bay. The best way to eat would be to add it to your morning cereals or coffee.
Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenol antioxidant compounds. These affect the arteries. They help in removing cholesterol and other debris deposited in the arteries. In addition, a higher intake of extra virgin olive oil helps in reducing platelet aggregation and inflammation, both of which are bad for arteries.
Foods for Arteries: What to Avoid
Processed foods are often comfort foods. But their composition is a more significant issue—for example, high in calories, salt, saturated fat, added sugars, and preservatives. Thus, leading to more health problems down the road. Overeating processed meat like bacon, jerky, ham, and sausages might raise LDL or harmful cholesterol levels. It, in turn, blocks the arteries by cholesterol deposits. When it comes to processed and packaged items, eat them once every other week at most. It will help if you keep the frequency of consumption under check also limiting calories and unwanted nutrients to limit calories.
Sugary drinks or soft drinks don’t have any exceptional nutritional value. Sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened drinks, or soda will only add more and more calories to your body. Diet sodas might be low in calories but have no essential nutrients. It simply means that they’re not offering any benefits to your health.
Furthermore, a study shows that adolescents who drank soft drinks with added sugars were more prone to artery damage, increasing cardiovascular disease risk.
Deep-fried foods are particularly bad for the arteries as they increase the risk of arteriosclerosis. Deep frying is a method that increases trans fat levels in food, which is a type of fat that raises the bad cholesterol and lowers the good kind. It induces fatty deposits and waxy cholesterol accumulation inside the arteries. It will help if you avoid typical fried foods such as French fries, double-fried chicken, and fried snacks.
The cardiovascular risks associated with margarine is a leading topic of discussion. Although marketed as a healthier alternative for butter, stick margarine contains trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils. Hence, making them the wrong diet choice for artery health.
What Causes Damage to the Arteries?
A damaged or diseased artery is characterised by chest pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and nausea. Just like a set of symptoms, there’s a list of causative factors behind artery damage.
- Lifestyle habits like smoking and not being active contributes to weaker arteries. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle accelerates the rate of plaque formation, leading to clumped and damaged arteries.
- Uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure causes thickening or hardening of the arteries. Thus, making them similar to narrow channels where the blood fails to pass efficiently.
- Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of artery damage. The insulin resistance shown during diabetes is directly involved with obesity and high blood pressure, two factors that cause extreme damage to arteries.
- An unhealthy diet is the prime cause of artery diseases; When you’re not eating enough nutrients, the artery fails to function correctly. Furthermore, unhealthy diet choices include sugar, salt, and trans fat. When a harmful diet group with a sedentary lifestyle, the risk of artery damage triples.
- Although not very common, people with autoimmune diseases might suffer unexpected artery damage. Autoimmune conditions often trigger inflammation, which is not suitable for arteries. Moreover, when your immune system starts attacking your body cells, things can quickly go out of control.
Health Risks of Damaged Arteries
When your artery is damaged or clogged, it becomes a risk factor for other health complications. Damaged arteries aren’t good for your heart. It is also not good for your general well being. According to curated data, about 6.7% of adults aged 20 and above in the United States have coronary artery disease. However, most of them are untreated patients. When left undiagnosed or untreated, damaged arteries cause the following conditions.
1. Heart Attack
When one or more coronary arteries become damaged, it leads to a heart attack. Over time, the cholesterol deposited in the arteries will rupture and form a blood clot. It causes a complete heart blockage and disrupts the blood flow, damaging the cardiac muscles. At this point, the risk of heart attack doubles.
2. Heart Failure
Heart failure is a common health risk from critically damaged arteries. As the arteries are blocked, it leads to deprivation of nutrients and oxygen. Thus, your heart fails to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands.
Arrhythmia is a condition that results in abnormal heart rhythm. It might develop even during the initial stages of artery damage. That is because the inadequate blood supply from damaged arteries interferes with the heart’s electrical impulses, leading to arrhythmia.
4. Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood to your legs are damaged. As a result, it significantly lowers the amount of oxygen delivered. Thus, causing numbness, pain, and infection in the legs.
A stroke is a medical emergency that arises from disrupted blood flow to the brain—a blocked artery is the key culprit behind the stroke. Damaged, blocked, or narrow arteries severely reduce blood flow. Moreover, the plaque or debris from damaged arteries travels through the bloodstream and lodges in the brain.
When to See a Doctor?
Most people with artery damage don’t see a doctor until the onset of physical pains or signs. Then, as a general rule of thumb, you can visit a doctor, whether or not you’re experiencing a symptom. However, get checked out if you’re having persistent chest pain, fatigue, and breathing trouble. Here are three primary indicators that tell when one should see a cardiologist.
High Total Cholesterol
Total cholesterol refers to the sum of all the cholesterol in your blood. The higher the cholesterol, the greater are the chances of artery issues.
A history of heart problems indicates that you shouldn’t wait until you get a disease. Instead, consider seeing a doctor discuss the possibility and risk factors.
High Blood Pressure
A sudden rise in blood pressure means something is wrong with your heart.
Damaged Arteries: Diagnosis
An angiogram is a particular type of x-ray procedure to check if the arteries and other blood vessels are working well or not. You can use it to diagnose any abnormalities linked with the arteries of the leg, abdomen, head, chest, and arms. An angiogram is the best option to find any narrowing, reduced blood flow, blood clots, blockage, or bulge of arteries.
Carotid Doppler Ultrasound
The carotid Doppler ultrasound scan diagnoses any complications of the arteries that supply blood to your brain. It measures the blood flow through carotid arteries and diagnoses the extent of the damage. It is also helpful in evaluating the risk of stroke.
Cardiac screening is a diagnostic approach for clogged arteries. During the screening process, the inside of the arteries checks for blockages. Specific ultrasounds detect fatty deposits accumulating in the arteries.
Other Ways to Keep Your Arteries Healthy
1. Exercise Regularly
Performing moderate-intensity exercises helps your heart to pump efficiently. You can slowly build your tolerance to high intensity or vigorous-intensity exercises. Engaging in regular physical activity helps with circulation, increases blood oxygen levels, lowers total cholesterol, and burns excess fats. Thus, it reduces your chances of acquiring heart disease or artery damage.
2. Stop Smoking
Smoking is one lifestyle habit that puts your arteries at greater risk. When you smoke, the heart is deprived of oxygen. As a result, it triggers the growth of plaque in arteries. As the plaque deposition builds, the arteries become weaker and insufficient. For better functioning of arteries, refrain from smoking.
3. Drink in Moderation
A glass of red wine might be beneficial for your heart but always remember that anything too much is not good. Excessive drinking over time will hurt your arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack. It will help if you do not exceed one or two glasses per week.
4. Control Stress and Anxiety
In today’s lifestyle, stress and anxiety are a given. However, being under continuous pressure eventually wears down the walls of your arteries. It takes a toll on the overall health. Try improving your sleeping schedule and practice relaxation techniques to relieve anxiety. One can always include yoga and meditation catered to the needs of your artery health.
A healthy artery is synonymous with a healthy heart. The path of supporting and maintaining your heart health begins with arteries. When arteries are clogged up or damaged, blood doesn’t flow as it should. It, in turn, triggers a plethora of health complications. Nevertheless, a heart-healthy diet can lower the risk of developing problems like clogged arteries. Watch what you eat. Eating right is incredibly important for healthy arteries.
An occasional piece of pizza or burger isn’t going to wreck your arteries but try to limit the consumption of processed foods, sodium, and added sugars. In addition to a healthy diet, you should exercise regularly, limit drinking, and quit smoking. Damaged arteries are not exclusively detrimental to heart health, but it equally affects other body functions. Thus, keeping them healthy must be your prime goal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. How can I strengthen my arteries naturally?
A. The best way to make your arteries stronger is to add heart-healthy foods to your diet, accompanied by regular exercises. Good blood flow is essential for more muscular arteries. So, consuming foods like pomegranate, beets, fatty fish, and flax seeds will prevent clogging and improve blood flow.
Q. What drinks help arteries?
A. Detox drinks are helpful to keep the arteries healthy. You can try fresh fruit drinks made from orange, pomegranate, allium vegetables, and beets. Consuming red wine is also beneficial but should be in moderation.
Q. Which fruit juice is good for arteries?
A. Freshly brewed juices with high antioxidants are the best for arteries. Some examples are orange juice, pomegranate juice, and tomato juice. They prevent the stiffening or hardening of the arteries. In addition, the vitamins, plant-based compounds, and fibres in fruit juices are heart-protective agents.
Q. How do I know if my arteries are hardening?
A. The common signs include chest pain, sweating, heart palpitations, and breathlessness. In the case of severe cases, you might experience mini-strokes or Ischemic attacks. Persistent chest pain accompanied by fatigue and nausea is the standard indicator in both men and women.
Q. Can arteries repair themselves?
A. Damaged arteries can heal themselves, but it might take more extended periods with a higher risk of relapse. Therefore, it would be better to assist the arteries through lifestyle changes and medications. You can repair arteries naturally by following a heart-healthy diet and regular exercises. However, severe progression of disease requires medical treatments.
Q. Does vitamin C clean arteries?
A. Yes, vitamin C helps clear and clean arteries. It prevents the hardening of the arteries. In addition, vitamin C works by nourishing the cells lining the artery walls, making it easier to function.
Q. Can olive oil remove plaque from arteries?
A. To be specific, extra virgin olive oil helps clear out the plaque deposits in the artery. Daily intake of olive oil removes the debris present in arteries and ensures a healthy blood flow. A traditional Mediterranean diet includes more olive oil because of its ability to remove cholesterol from arteries. After all, cholesterol is one main component in plaque formation.
Q. Can you exercise with blocked arteries?
A. People with blocked arteries can exercise only under medical supervision or after consulting a doctor—moreover, only exercises suitable for blocked arteries. Try starting with less intense activities like brisk walking, cycling, and jogging. There’s no harm in performing exercises with blocked arteries as long it’s not exerting undue pressure on you.