How to Open Clogged Arteries

Updated May 31, 2017

The medical term for the substance that clogs arteries is arterial plaque. This substance consists of fat, calcium, cholesterol or other substances circulating in your blood. An excess of arterial plaque will cause the arteries to narrow and harden, a condition call atherosclerosis. Clogged arteries can occur anywhere in your system, but they are most dangerous when they occur near the heart. When an artery near the heart becomes so clogged with plaque that it is blocked completely, a heart attack occurs. Opening clogged arteries involves a three-pronged treatment plan, depending on how severe the condition is.

Partake in a heart healthy diet. A March 2010 study published in "Circulation," a leading journal of the American Heart Association, found that three particular diets can reverse arterial plaque build-up. Participants in the two-year study who maintained a low-fat, low-carbohydrate or Mediterranean diet showed a decrease in plaque build-up. The diets varied from each other, but they all featured an increase in vegetables, a complete removal of trans fats and processed foods and a decrease in overall calories.

Take a statin medication. A 2006 study at the Cleveland Clinic showed that high doses of the statin Crestor caused a reduction in arterial plaque. Statins had previously been shown to lower cholesterol, thereby reducing the effects of artery blockage but not reducing the plaque itself. Statins are only available by prescription.

Take a calcium channel blocker. According to the Mayo Clinic website, these medications allow clogged arteries to open wider by relaxing the muscles that surround them. Calcium channel blockers also can control high blood pressure. They are only available by prescription.

Undergo surgery. In extreme cases of blockage, surgery is necessary to open the affected arteries. Doctors may place a stent, a small metal tube, into your blocked artery to physically open it up. This type of procedure is called angioplasty. In an atherectomy a surgeon will insert a small blade into the clogged artery and scrape away the plaque.


Clogged arteries are a serious and dangerous medical condition. Follow your doctor's instructions regarding any form of treatment. Take into account any side effects that artery medications may present.

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About the Author

Tim Altork is an experienced writer and editor whose work has appeared in the "Randolph Leader," the Beacon newspapers and the "Sunday Paper." He also writes and edits online for His expertise is in sports, but he has written on all topics, from politics to social events. Altork received a bachelor's degree in political science from Valdosta St. University.