Plaque build-up is a serious concern for people as it could lead to heart problems or strokes. Plaque is a substance that sticks to the artery walls and thereby hindering the blood flow. Having clogged arteries can be very dangerous. But before going to the question of whether we can reverse plaque build-up, we have to understand how plaque forms.
What is plaque build-up?
When there is a high amount of cholesterol in the body, excess cholesterol starts sticking to the walls of the artery. When this happens, the body responds to it by sending white blood cells as a defense. These cells die after eating the cholesterol and dead cells end up accumulating in the artery causing inflammation. Over time this plaque hardens.
- Plaque build-up makes it harder for the blood to flow through the artery.
- Sometimes a plaque from one place can tear off and get stuck in a narrow artery completely cutting off the blood flow. This might result in a heart attack or stroke.
- Due to a reduced supply of oxygen-enriched blood, one could experience breathlessness and fatigue.
Can you reverse plaque build-up?
The most popular opinion among medical professionals until some years ago was that one cannot reverse plaque build-up. But a study as early as in 1947 showed the possibility of clogged arteries being cured as the autopsies of people who died of starvation during World War II exhibited close to no plaque build-up. There is a 1990 study, that shows that intense lifestyle changes can reduce the plaque when strictly followed.
Lifestyle changes for reversing plaque build-up
Most of the medicines that are available for clogged arteries are either given for reducing the discomfort or to prevent further complications. They do not help with curing or reversing the damage already caused. Even for these medicines to work, there is a need for a change in the diet or lifestyle as a whole as it is possible to out-eat the effects of the medicine.
Vegetarian diet with the focus on whole foods
The first major lifestyle change you have to do to reverse plaque build-up is to change your diet. Processed foods and meats are the major cause of high cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that switching to a low-fat whole foods vegetarian diet can not only improve one’s overall health but can also help to reverse the clogged arteries. Fatty fishes can be consumed two-three times a week as a meat alternative. Avoid trans fat and reduce the intake of processed sugar and saturated fats. The diet should contain foods rich in fiber and healthy fats.
Smoking is proven to be a factor that increases the plaque build-up in the arteries. If you are a smoker, the first step you need to take is to quit smoking. Smoking is also known to increase blood pressure and decrease the formation of good cholesterol in the body. This can lead to escalation plaque formation.
Regular physical activity
Incorporating some form of physical activity into your everyday schedule has a lot of health benefits. When it comes to fighting clogged arteries, 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day can help increase the good cholesterol levels and maintain your blood pressure. Moreover, it will help you lose weight which contributes to the bad cholesterol in your body.
Keep your stress in check
The study where the reduction of the plaque was found in people included stress management therapy along with their diet and exercises. Stress has a direct effect on our physical health. While stress can be good for us sometimes, prolonged stress can weaken the body. People who are less stressed have better health in general. So, if you are a person who is going through a lot of stress or depression, remedy it. You can go for therapy along with the above lifestyle changes for the best results.
If your plaque build-up is so much that you have high-risk of heart diseases, it is advised to take the prescribed medicines along with the lifestyle changes. While these lifestyle changes do have a profound effect on your health, it will take some time to reverse plaque build-up. The medicines will help to the complications at bay till then.