6 Ways to Treat a Blocked Artery

Arteriosclerosis, the disease responsible for the sticky plaque buildup on arterial walls, affects as many as 12 million Americans. Unfortunately, many are unaware that their arteries are blocked, and left untreated, the plaque-filled lesions rupture and create blood clots that lead to a heart attack or a stroke. But if you are vigilant and able to catch a blockage, you can reverse the damage and avoid a major coronary event. Here are some ways you and your doctor can reduce the plaque clogging your arteries.

  • Chelation: We're listing this therapy only to caution against it. The American Heart Association, as well as other medical organizations, is opposed to this procedure. Scientific studies of its efficiacy have concluded that it provides no benefit. Also, EDTA, the therapy's active ingredient, can cause kidney failure, bone marrow depression, low blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, allergic reactions, or respiratory arrest.  

  • Diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes: Once your doctor has determined that you suffer from heart disease, the first thing he or she will likely recommend is that you overhaul your way of life by avoiding foods full of saturated fat, eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and quitting bad habits such as smoking-a major contributor to plaque buildup. Fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and exercise all increase your levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which help remove excess bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.

  • Pharmaceutical intervention: There are several drugs on the market that can reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, and which one is right for you is a matter for you and your doctor to decide. Last year, a study presented at a scientific symposium sponsored by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation reported that olmesartan, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, may significantly reduce the amount of plaque buildup.[1] And in 2006, an article appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that high doses of Rosuvastatin successfully removed plaque from arterial walls.[2]

  • Angioplasty: Performed 1,314,000 times in 2006, this procedure opens clogged arteries by expanding the arterial walls with the temporary insertion of a small balloon. A metal stent is often inserted afterward to keep the artery unobstructed.

  • Atherectomy: By using a burr or a laser inserted through the femoral artery, an atherectomy breaks up calcified plaque into microscopic pieces that are then removed from the bloodstream by processes controlled by the liver, lungs, and spleen. An angioplasty and/or stenting may serve as a follow-up to the procedure. Risks include arterial injury and heart attack.

  • Coronary bypass: In some cases, like when several arteries leading to your heart are blocked or a previous angioplasty or other types of intervention have proved unsuccessful, this major surgical procedure is called for. Taking a healthy blood vessel from your arm, leg, chest, or abdomen, a heart surgeon creates a bypass over a diseased or blocked area of your coronary arteries so that a normal blood flow can be restored to your heart.


[1] Cardiovascular Research Foundation (2008, October 16). Drug May Reduce Coronary Artery Plaque; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081012121318.htm

[2] Effect of Very High-Intensity Statin Therapy on Regression of Coronary Atherosclerosis, Steven E. Nissen, MD; JAMA, Vol. 295 No. 13, April 5, 2006; http://jama.amaassn.org/cgi/content/abstract/295/13/1556?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Rosuvastatin%2C+2006&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT