Blocked arteries, or atherosclerosis, can shorten your lifespan. This condition is dangerous and you’ll want to consult your healthcare team about managing the condition, including possible medications.

Blocked arteries are a leading cause of cardiovascular diseases that can result in fatal medical emergencies like heart attack and stroke.

While there’s no exact estimate on how atherosclerosis can reduce your lifespan overall, these other serious medical events can significantly shorter your life — or even lead to sudden death.

This article will explore some of the effects atherosclerosis can have on your overall health and how complications of this condition could impact your lifespan.

Blocked arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, is dangerous because the fatty plaques that build up along your artery walls can slow blood flow through your body. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through these narrowed vessels, leading to complications like heart failure.

The extra force of the blood through these vessels can also stretch and weaken your blood vessels, raise blood pressure, and dislodge pieces of the plaques that line your artery walls. Dislodged plaques can travel to other areas, completely blocking blood flow.

This can result in potentially fatal complications like heart attack, stroke, and tissue damage from a lack of oxygen-rich blood.

About half of all Americans between 45 and 84 years old have blocked arteries and don’t even know it. That’s why it’s difficult to estimate the exact impact this problem can have on overall life expectancy.

However, atherosclerosis is the main cause of all cardiovascular disease, and the impact of atherosclerosis can be estimated by looking at some of the medical issues that can result from it.

Atherosclerosis is dangerous for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that it can develop slowly over time without any noticeable symptoms.

For many people, symptoms only appear when there is already significant blockage in your arteries or when a sudden possibly fatal medical emergency occurs.

If you do experience symptoms of atherosclerosis, these could include things like:

  • chest pain or angina
  • weakness
  • lightheadedness
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • cold sweats
  • pain in the arms or shoulder
  • facial droop
  • slurred speech
  • weakness on one side or part of your body
  • cold painful extremities

Maintaining your heart health throughout your life can help you avoid developing atherosclerosis and the complications that can come with it.

Research suggests that healthy lifestyle choices can extend lives in women by about 14 years in comparison to those who don’t make the same choices. For men, healthy choices can add up to 12 years of life.

In addition to maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can talk with a healthcare professional about steps you can take to avoid serious complications from atherosclerosis.

You may be prescribed medications to help control cholesterol and blood pressure. Taking these medications regularly and as prescribed is an important part of prevention.

Smoking cessation may also be helpful to prevent progression.

It’s important to follow up regularly with your doctor.

If you have severe disease, medical treatments or surgeries to restore blood flow to different areas of your body, or reroute blood through blocked vessels might be recommended for you.

There’s no way you can really check for blocked arteries at home. Diagnosis of atherosclerosis usually requires formal medical testing with things like:

Blocked arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, is the leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. The buildup of plaques that happen with atherosclerosis can happen to any artery in your body and lead to heart attack, stroke, and even death.

Talk with your healthcare team about how to manage your condition if you’ve been diagnosed with atherosclerosis. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can’t undo damage that’s already done, but it can help you prevent additional plaque buildup.