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Road closed sign, blocking the roadway like plaque blocks arteries.

Keep Those Arteries Clear!

by Kyle Aldinger, MD Shelby Medical Associates

Getting around downtown Shelby was a bit of a challenge when several streets were blocked off due to repairs. Sure, we all understand the importance of keeping our roadways in good condition.

Sometimes water mains will break. Next thing you know, there’s a barricade or ten, and you have to rethink your route to get to where you’re going.

Your Circulation Depends On Open Pathways

In your body, your blood vessels are like streets and highways. When everything is running smoothly, your heart sends your blood flowing up and down all those veins and arteries.

What Is Atherosclerosis?

But what happens when barricades begin to form in your arteries? This is known as atherosclerosis. When these blockages occur in the major blood vessels of your heart, this is called coronary artery disease.

While having to drive around a few orange cones or wooden barricades in town can be a bit inconvenient, atherosclerosis is serious, and can cause decreased blood flow or blockage in your heart or brain.

This is when you can experience a heart attack or stroke.

How do blockages form in your arteries?

Deposits of cholesterol, called plaque, can progressively build up in your arteries and cause them to narrow, decreasing blood flow.

What are some of the symptoms of atherosclerosis?

Since these cholesterol plaques build over long periods of time, symptoms don’t always show up until there is a significant blockage or worse, a heart attack or stroke. But sometimes, you may notice some of the telltale signs.

  • Angina  Pressure or tightness in your chest, called angina, can cause pain. It may feel like you have a heavy weight pressing down on your chest. Angina can be caused by physical or emotional stress, and usually goes away once the stressful situation has ceased.
  • Trouble breathing  Less blood flowing through those arteries means less oxygen when you need it. Then when you exert yourself, you can experience shortness of breath.
  • Severe pain  Most serious of all is when an artery is completely blocked. A heart attack can begin as severe pain in the chest, or pain felt in the shoulder, arm, neck or even your jaw. Oftentimes this pain can be mistaken for indigestion.
  • Weakness or confusion  If a blockage occurs in the brain, then it can slow down or stop blood flow in the brain, causing a stroke. Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the face, or one arm or leg, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Pain or numbness during exercise If you develop numbness, cramping or pain in your arms or legs with walking or during exercise, then you may have developed blockages in your extremities.

How To Avoid Blockages And Keep Your Blood Flowing

As patient as we are in working around road crews and making detours, we are all very glad when the barricades are taken down and the orange cones are put away.

There are ways to avoid plaque buildup in your arteries. One of the easiest is to eat foods that are believed to help keep those vessels free of blockages.

Eat Your Veggies and Fruits Why it’s so good for you How to eat it
Spinach Potassium and folate help lower blood pressure and keep arteries clear Source Raw in a salad
Cooked in a quiche or casserole
Broccoli Vitamin K can keep calcium from damaging your arteries and prevent plaque build-up


Grill it
Raw in a salad
Roasted or baked
Watermelon Amino acids and nitric oxide relax the arteries Source Chilled
Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and reduce “bad” cholesterol Source Raw in smoothies or salads

Cooked in various dishes

Avocado Increases “good” cholesterol and lowers the “bad”


In place of a sandwich spread
Raw in a salad
Don’t Forget the Fatty Fish
Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel
Herring, Sardines
Omega-3 fatty acids increase “good” cholesterol, decrease inflammation and can lower blood pressure Source Baked
GrilledIn a salad
Your Daily Bread
Whole Grains Fiber and magnesium help lower your blood pressure


Bread and pasta made with whole grains
Brown rice
Oatmeal and Quinoa
Oil, Spices, Nuts and

Dark Chocolate   

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Oleic acid increases “good” cholesterol and is rich in antioxidants Source Salad dressing
In place of butter
For dipping all that whole grain bread
Turmeric Curcumin reduces inflammation and helps repair artery walls Source Add to savory and sweet dishes
Add to warm milk
Nuts Good fats, Vitamin E and Fiber work together with magnesium to increase “good” cholesterol and lower blood pressure Source Salad topping
A handful for snacking
Dark Chocolate Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular disease Source As an occasional snack

Remember, chocolate is also high in sugar and calories, so eat sparingly

Another way to help keep artery blockages at bay is to get regular exercise such as

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Playing tennis
  • Aerobics

These cardio activities raise your heart rate and, when practiced regularly, can strengthen your heart and help reduce the sources of plaque.


You’ll need to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program, and you may be prescribed an exercise routine tailored to your lifestyle.

Stress-reducing activities are also helpful in lowering your risk for developing clogged arteries.


Practicing yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises can help you relax and lower your stress levels.


Get Regular Sleep

If you aren’t getting a full night’s sleep, or if your sleep is broken, not only will you not feel your best, your arteries could suffer.

Research has linked poor sleep to heart disease, and now a study has shown that sleeping less than six hours per night or frequently waking during the night could put you at an increased risk for developing damaging plaque in your arteries.

Give Up Smoking and Lose Weight

Smoking damages your arteries and can make plaque deposits develop faster. To further lower your risk for developing clogged arteries, work to lower your weight to a healthy level.

When This Isn’t Enough

While these are all great ways to help prevent atherosclerosis, sometimes these methods are just not enough.

If your “bad” cholesterol is too high, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower it, along with recommending changes in your diet and exercise as mentioned above.

Once an artery is blocked, a procedure may be necessary, including clearing the vessel of plaque and adding a stent to help keep blood flowing at a normal rate. Sometimes the artery is too damaged and must be by-passed with a surgical intervention. These are all options to discuss with your doctor.

Keeping the Roadways and Arteries Flowing Smoothly

There will always be reasons that the some roads are blocked and barricaded, and during those times, we find a way to detour around the area so we can reach our destination.

Your ultimate destination for open arteries is to make healthy choices to avoid plaque build-up. When your blood has no barricades, the way is clear to good health.

When you come in to see us at Shelby Medical Associates, your doctor can review your history, run some simple tests, such as your cholesterol panel, and give you an idea of your risk for blockages that can result in a heart attack or stroke.


Call now to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your risks for blockages and how you can avoid them.


Take care of you. Take care of yours. We’ll be here to help you with both.


Our Location:

711 North Dekalb Street
Shelby, NC 28150

Our Hours:

Mon - Thur 8AM-5PM
Friday 8AM-Noon
Sat & Sun Closed


Disclaimer: The contents in this site, and any linked materials, is not intended nor should be construed as medical advice. With any and all health concerns the reader has, they should consult with a licensed physician or other provider.

Phone: 704-482-1482

Fax: 704-482-0811