How do arteries become blocked?

Heart blockage is several different things, says Marty Denny, MD, from Frankfort Regional Medical Center. Learn how blockages differ from each other, and how your body combats them, by watching this video.
What Is Heart Blockage?
The arteries can become blocked through a build up of plaque on the insides of the arteries, resulting in coronary artery disease, or CAD. Watch this animation to see how this can happen.

Coronary Artery Disease
Blocked arteries can cause heart attacks, strokes and other serious problems. But what exactly goes wrong? How do arteries become blocked to begin with?

Each artery is made up of three layers: a smooth layer on the inside, a thick layer of muscle in the middle and a rough layer on the outside. Your arteries are strong and flexible, but they can become less effective over time. The smooth inner lining of the artery can become damaged, causing a substance called plaque to build up or blood to start clotting at the injury site. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and scar tissue. The risk of plaque formation in the arteries is increased by several factors:
  • Saturated fats and trans fats in the diet
  • Cholesterol in the diet
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Genetics (family history)
  • Smoking
Plaque and blood clots inhibit blood flow in the arteries and can ultimately stop or block it altogether. Controlling risk factors such as diet can help stop, slow or sometimes even reverse the blockage of arteries.
Arteries can be blocked by three problems, which may occur alone or in combination to produce a heart attack:
  • Fatty buildup in the artery (atherosclerosis)
  • A blood clot in an artery already narrowed by atherosclerosis
  • A spasm of the artery's muscular wall.
Without enough blood and oxygen, the heart muscle begins to die.
Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, leads to blocked arteries, says Michael Wood, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at MountainView Hospital. In this video, he describes symptoms of blocked arteries.
What Is a Blocked Artery?

Continue Learning about Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Your circulatory system is made up of your heart and three main types of blood vessels -- arteries, veins and capillaries. Your heart is at the center of the system, acting as a pump to distribute nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood t...

hrough your body; it then takes away carbon dioxide and other waste your body doesn't need. Signs of poor circulation include cold hands and feet, numbness, dizziness, migraines, varicose veins and pain in your feet or legs. Untreated, poor circulation can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, kidney damage and other diseases. Learn more about your heart and circulatory system with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.