You may be able to reverse clogged arteries through diet, physical activity, and stress management. Lifestyle changes and medications may also reduce plaque buildup.

Arteries are a major component of your circulatory system.

These tubes move oxygen-containing blood through your body, helping fuel all your body’s functions. When blood vessels are clear and open, blood can flow freely.

However, plaques of cholesterol, fat, and other substances can sometimes build up inside your blood vessels. This condition is known as atherosclerosis, which may gradually narrow your arteries.

Treatment will depend on the severity and location of your plaque buildup. The authors of a 2020 review note that reversing atherosclerosis involves managing all major risk factors, including:

Diet (eating plan), physical activity, and stress management may also help you “unclog” your arteries. However, bypass surgery may be needed to help prevent complications.

Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to help unclog your arteries.

A plant-based, heart-healthy diet may help treat plaques and prevent others from forming.

Research from 2019 states that a low fat, plant-based eating plan can effectively reverse coronary artery disease. This condition is a common complication associated with clogged arteries.

One possible option is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. This diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while limiting or avoiding saturated fat, sugar, and salt.

Here are some foods to consider including in your eating plan and others to consider limiting or avoiding to help prevent artery clogging or to help unclog your arteries.

The DASH diet recommends lean meats, fish, poultry, and low fat dairy products. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, but research is highly inconsistent as to whether they are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The consensus is that a healthy diet is more important than removing specific foods from your eating plan.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the risk of developing atherosclerosis increases in males after age 45 years and in females after age 55 years.

That said, plaque can start building in your arteries in your 20s and 30s, according to the British Heart Foundation.

The authors of a 2019 research review also state that having elevated cholesterol as a younger adult increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

Aside from following a heart-healthy eating plan, here are some additional tips that may help you unclog your arteries and prevent plaque buildup.

Move more

Staying physically active, such as regular exercise, can improve your cardiovascular health and help prevent cardiac issues.

Slowly build up your routine and stamina, and make staying physically active a part of your weekly routine. Aim for at least 150–300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, 75–150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both.

Walking is a great way to get moving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends practicing muscle-strengthening activities that target all muscle groups two days per week. These may include yoga and activities with:

Speaking with a doctor before starting a new activity, such as an exercise routine, is essential. They can help you develop the best physical activity plan, including intensity level. It’s important to note that some types of exercise may be physically unsafe if you have certain chronic conditions.

Manage cholesterol levels

Decreasing your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and increasing your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels may also help reduce plaque buildup in your arteries.

When you have a high LDL level (or “bad” cholesterol), the excess cholesterol floats through your body and may stick to arterial walls. HDL (the “good” cholesterol) removes the LDL deposits and stops plaque formation.

A doctor may prescribe medications to help lower your LDL cholesterol and prevent plaques.

The researchers of a 2020 study noted stabilization of existing plaques in people with atherosclerosis and stable angina within 30 days of taking high cholesterol medications. Plaque shrinkage was seen 1–2 years later.

Maintain a moderate weight

Following a heart-healthy eating plan and staying physically active may help you lose weight, if that’s your goal, and maintain a moderate weight. Not maintaining a moderate weight can lead to an increase in your LDL cholesterol, which may increase your risk of plaque buildup.

If you are overweight or have obesity, reducing your body weight by 3–5% can provide health benefits. For example, it may help lower your cholesterol.

Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake

Smoking contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. This makes it more likely that plaques will form, and it increases their overall growth rate. Smoking also affects the aorta, the main artery in your body.

If you smoke, the day you quit, your health is positively affected immediately. For example, quitting smoking may help raise your HDL levels. Speak with a doctor if you need help quitting smoking. They can recommend smoking cessation programs and other supportive resources.

The CDC offers a hotline to quit smoking at the number 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Drinking too much alcohol can also affect the heart. If you consume alcohol, the NHLBI recommends limiting alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.

Alcohol can also negatively affect your cholesterol levels.

Manage stress

Your mental and emotional health can directly affect your physical health and overall well-being. It’s essential to identify and manage stress as best as you can. You might consider taking time to relax each day or seeking support from a therapist if you need help managing issues you might face every day.

Take prescribed medication

If lifestyle changes alone are not providing the results you seek in helping unclog your arteries, consider talking with a doctor. They may prescribe medications to help lower your LDL cholesterol and prevent plaques.

These medications are designed for use alongside other heart-healthy measures, such as following a heart-healthy eating plan and staying physically active.

Statin medications are a common option. Doctors prescribe them for adults at a higher risk of developing a stroke or coronary artery disease. Other cholesterol-lowering medications may include:

Be sure to take your cholesterol medication as prescribed. It’s vital to continue a heart-healthy eating plan and regular physical activity even if you’re taking a cholesterol-lowering medication.

If you’ve received an arterial blockage diagnosis, now is the ideal time to consider measures to reverse plaque and prevent additional buildup.

Some lifestyle changes may help prevent your condition from worsening. However, you may need medical intervention if one or more of your arteries has a more severe blockage.

A doctor may recommend surgery to remove plaques or bypass the blockages, including:

If you have clogged arteries, working with a doctor to create a treatment plan is essential. If blockages remain untreated, you could experience severe health complications, including:

What is the fastest way to unclog your arteries?

There is no fast, easy way to unclog an artery once plaque has built up. However, following a heart-healthy eating plan, staying physically active, such as regularly exercising, and quitting smoking (if you smoke) can help stop blockages from getting worse.

In some cases, medications or surgery may be needed.

What are the warning signs of clogged arteries?

Chest pain, also called angina, is one of the most common symptoms of a clogged artery. Angina has been described as a squeezing tightness or heaviness centered on your chest. Pain may typically start in the area of your breastbone and radiate to your left arm or shoulder. It may also radiate to your jaw or upper back.

Angina pain from a clogged artery is typically felt when you’re exerting yourself, and it usually goes away with rest. Other symptoms may include:

  • dizziness
  • feeling like your heart is racing
  • nausea or indigestion
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • weakness

Can you reverse plaque buildup in your arteries?

Following a heart-healthy diet, staying physically active, and quitting smoking (if you smoke) may help reduce plaque buildup and stop blockages from getting worse. If lifestyle changes are not enough, a doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins, to help lower your LDL cholesterol and prevent plaque formation.

Plaque buildup may clog your arteries. Though diet and lifestyle are major contributors to arterial blockages, your risk of atherosclerosis may also increase with age.

Adopting a heart-healthy eating plan and staying physically active, like exercising regularly, may help reduce plaques and prevent them from getting worse. These health-promoting lifestyle changes are also essential if you have a procedure to remove plaques or bypass a heavily clogged artery.

If you have questions about clogged arteries, talk with a healthcare professional.

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