A heart attack is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.79 crore people died from Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) in 2019, of which 85% were due to heart attack and stroke. The alarming data gets us all wondering about the causes and risk factors of such incidences. The global health agency attributes it to lifestyle habits as well as medical conditions, such as raised blood pressure, increased blood glucose, and elevated blood lipids, and obesity. But technically, a heart attack occurs when the arteries that distribute oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of the body are blocked. This is called atherosclerosis.
Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Dr Sanjay Bhat, Sr. Consultant - Interventional Cardiology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore, discusses the complications associated with clogged arteries and how it can be prevented with your diet.
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Dangers Of Clogged Arteries
When fatty deposits, also known as plaque, get deposited inside the arteries, it narrows it down and decreases the blood flow to your heart. This can lead to several complications including:
Coronary Artery Disease(CAD): Coronary arteries supply blood to your heart. When these get blocked, it can lead to chest discomfort (angina), heart attack or other issues like arrhythmia or heart failure.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): PAD usually occurs in the lower part of the body such as the legs and the feet. It is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Carotid artery disease: Carotid arteries are major blood vessels that provide blood to your brain. The complications occur when carotid arteries get blocked due to the build-up of plaque.
Foods That Can Help Prevent Clogged Arteries
Vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, are called cruciferous vegetables and may help lower your risk of developing clogged arteries. A 2009 British Heart Foundation (BHF) study published in the Journal Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found a chemical found in vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, can boost a natural defence mechanism to protect arteries from disease.
Green Leafy vegetables
Leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are also said to prevent arterial problems. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggests that the minerals (dietary nitrate and potassium) found in leafy greens and beetroot can have 'important vascular effects', especially in terms of preventing conditions like atherosclerosis or clogged arteries.
White meat primarily includes chicken, turkey and fish. Besides having cruciferous and leafy vegetables, Dr Bhat encourages people to eat white meat to reduce one’s risk of developing clogged arteries.
Nuts and seeds
Different types of nuts and seeds are rich in protein, fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Several studies have suggested nuts and seeds consumption can increase 'good' cholesterol levels while reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
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Foods To Avoid
Dr Bhat recommends avoiding foods that are processed and deep-fried. He encourages people to restrict salt intake, as it is a big contributor to several heart-related issues including high blood pressure. In addition, the doctor warns against the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
Ignorance is not always bliss, especially when it comes to your heart health. Making the right food choices, developing healthy lifestyle habits and being aware of factors that put you at risk of cardiovascular complications are some of the ways to maintain overall health. When in doubt, consult your doctor and get necessary screenings.