What Causes Plaque in Your Arteries?

Atherosclerosis or the development of plaque inside the arteries makes them narrow and this can lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke. This plaque is made up of fats; and the two main culprits leading to the development of plaque formation are saturated fats and trans fats which are found in many food items. When you eat a lot of saturated and trans fats, the bad cholesterol or LDL levels in blood are raised. The raised LDL combined with other predisposing factors is what causes plaque in arteries and leads to complications. 

What Causes Plaque in Your Arteries?

1.      High Blood Pressure

high blood pressure

The thing about high blood pressure is that it does not have any symptoms, so it is extremely important to get yourself checked regularly. When the blood pressure stays at a higher level the walls of the arteries get damaged and they become more prone to plaque formation. If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm hg, you need to contact your doctor and get medical advice.

2.      High Blood Sugar

high blood sugar

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar levels are not controlled you need to be careful. Excessive sugar in blood can damage the blood vessel walls and this can be the major culprit of what causes plaque in your arteries and can lead to atherosclerosis.

3.      Alcohol Consumption

excessive alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can damage your health. It can increase your blood pressure and lead to an increase in bad cholesterol levels in blood. Men can have two drinks per day while women should keep it to one drink a day to avoid getting atherosclerosis.

4.      Excess Weight

excessive weight

If you are overweight, you are more likely to have higher cholesterol level and are at a greater risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. Shedding the extra kilos can lower these risks significantly and can prevent the plaque formation in the arteries.

5.      Lack of Exercise

lack of exercise

Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise and physical activity put you at a greater risk of being overweight and developing high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels in blood. Each one of these can be a contributor to what causes plaque in your arteries and can have dire consequences.

6.      Saturated Fat

saturated fats

The main dietary culprit leading to atherosclerosis and causing plaque buildup in the arteries is saturated fat. If you eat a lot of saturated fats you can develop serious health problems. The main sources of saturated fats are 

  • Butter
  • Whole fat dairy products
  • Cheese
  • Meat (marbled in appearance)
  • Processed meat
  • Certain oils like palm oil

Try to limit the intake of these to reduce the risk of plaque formation.

7.      Trans Fat

Trans fats are man made fats which are found in many food items. These enhance the flavor and texture of food but are damaging for the arteries and can get deposited in the form of plaque. Processed foods are rich in trans fats and the intake should be limited. As the awareness is rising the use of these damaging fats is getting limited. However it is better to read the label carefully to avoid excessive consumption of these damaging fats.

8.      Dietary Cholesterol

Meat, egg, cheese and full fat dairy products are rich in dietary cholesterol and this can be a reason of plaque formation. Limit the intake of these for better health, thus avoiding developing atherosclerosis.

9.      Smoking


Smoking is very harmful for health. The nicotine found in cigarettes can damage the arterial lining and the damaged arteries develop plaques easily. To avoid this serious risk, quit smoking. This will prevent you from many complications. 

Best Foods to Eat to Avoid Plaque Buildup in Arteries

Now that it is clear what causes plaque in your arteries, the next thing is to know how to prevent it. Here are a few foods which can be helpful to prevent and even remove the plaque buildup.

1.      Asparagus

Asparagus is loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. It can lower blood pressure and the vitamin C, E, K, B1 and B2 present in it are extremely helpful in maintaining healthy arteries. The best way to eat is to lightly steam them or eat them raw.

2.      Avocado

Avocado is definitely amongst the super foods list. It is full of good fats and is extremely beneficial for health. Try to add it to your salads, sandwiches or add it to a smoothie, it tastes great and is packed with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, good fats and minerals. It has the ability to reduce blood cholesterol level significantly and it also increases the HDL or good cholesterol levels in blood. This HDL can unclog the arteries and is capable of removing the plaque buildup.

3.      Broccoli

The high levels of vitamin K present in broccoli are great for maintaining healthy and strong arteries. It is also full of other vitamins and minerals and eating it can lower LDL levels. It is high in fiber and can also lower the blood pressure. All these factors are helpful in preventing plaque formation and eating it can reduce the risk of developing serious cardiovascular diseases.

4.      Cranberries

These little berries are bursting with antioxidants. The antioxidants increase HDL or good cholesterol levels in blood. Making these a part of your daily diet can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and many other diseases.

5.      Cold-Water Fatty Fish

Making cold water fish a part of diet is known to clear the arteries. Tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are full of good fats and are helpful to reduce inflammation and plaque buildup in blood vessels. It is advised to eat these twice a week for better blood cholesterol levels and a healthy heart.

6.      Nuts

Nuts are the healthiest snacking option. Munch on these to get loads of vitamin E and mono unsaturated fats. Almonds are great for heart health; walnuts and flaxseed are also good choices to boost health and to reduce the incidence of inflammation and plaque formation in arteries.

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