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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.

  • 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 a heart attack. If the muscle goes without oxygen for too long, that part of the heart muscle dies.

Your whole body is at risk

Plaque buildup can lead to problems throughout the body. Common sites of artery problems include:

  • Brain. Arteries in the brain or leading to the brain 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. If this artery is damaged, the affected section can weaken and balloon out. This is called an aortic aneurysm.

  • Legs. If arteries in the legs are clogged with plaque, cramping, or aching in the buttocks, thighs, or calves can occur when walking. This is called claudication.

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Akin, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith, RN, MSN, FNP, CCRC
Last Review Date: 6/1/2013
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