Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup): How to prevent?

Atherosclerosis can be a fatal condition. It refers to the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in or on your artery walls (plaque), which can restrict blood flow. The most effective way to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis becoming fatal is to have frequent health check-ups.

The best way to counter the degenerative effects of atherosclerosis is through early detection,” said Clinical Associate Professor Aaron Wong, Head and Senior Consultant from the Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

To keep heart disease at bay, adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes:

  • Stop smoking (if you are a smoker)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Adopt a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress 

"This will not only protect you against heart disease, but also prevents a host of other health problems,” added Dr Wong.

It's not just the heart, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) can occur in other parts of the body

Atherosclerosis can occur in any artery in the body:

1. Peripheral arteries (arms and legs)

These are arteries in the arms and legs. Blockages in leg arteries may cause pain in the legs when walking. If the pain is bearable, the doctor may advise the patient to keep on walking through the pain, to encourage the body’s coping mechanism to build capillaries around the blockage. Limb artery blockages cause poor healing of wounds in patients with diabetes, and opening up such arteries with stents or surgery may prevent limbs from being amputated.

2. Carotid arteries (neck)

The carotid arteries, which are located along the sides of the neck, supply oxygen to the brain. When blockages develop in these arteries, a stroke may occur. A blockage here can sometimes be detected by putting a stethoscope to a carotid artery to listen for a whistling sound with every heart pulsation.

3. Renal arteries (kidney)

Atherosclerosis in these arteries, which supply blood to the kidneys, causes a gradual loss of kidney function. It can lead to uncontrolled high blood pressure and kidney failure.

See page one to learn how build-up of plaque can lead to a heart attack.

See page two to learn how is atheroclerosis treated.


Ref: R14

Check out other articles on heart health:

Tips for a Healthy Heart

Sudden Chest Pains You Shouldn't Ignore

Heart Palpitations: When Are They Serious?

How a Viral Infection Can Affect the Heart

How to Survive a Heart Attack When Alone