Arterial blockages

Clogged (blocked) arteries

If you're experiencing symptoms such as: chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations, HCA UK's experts can help


Arterial blockages (atherosclerosis) are a potentially serious condition in which arteries become clogged with substances such as fat or cholesterol (plaques).

Plaques cause arteries to harden and narrow, restricting blood flow and oxygen to vital organs. This increases the risk of dangerous blood clots that can cause damage to the heart or brain.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of arterial blockages icon plus

    If your artery is blocked, it means it can't supply enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart. As plaque continues to build up, you may develop coronary heart disease. Symptoms may include: - chest pain (angina) - shortness of breath - palpitations - dizziness - nausea - sweating The risk factors for arterial blockages include: - high blood pressure - high cholesterol - smoking - diabetes - strong family history of heart disease or obesity If any of these risk factors apply to you, talk to our experts. We can test for the condition, especially if you have any of the symptoms of narrowed or blocked arteries.
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you. Tests they recommend may include: - electrocardiogram (ECG). Records electrical signals as they travel through the heart - echocardiogram. Uses sound waves to produce images of the heart - stress test. Walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike during an ECG - cardiac catheterisation and angiogram. A special dye injected into the coronary arteries to view the flow of blood through the heart - CT scan. Helps locate calcium deposits in the arteries to determine if coronary heart disease is likely
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    There are no treatments available to reverse arterial blockages. However, healthy lifestyle changes such as: stopping smoking, a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and cutting down alcohol, can stop it getting worse. Sometimes additional treatments are recommended to reduce the risk of complications such as heart attacks and strokes. These may include: - statins for high cholesterol - high blood pressure medication - medication to reduce the risk of blood clots - anti-diabetic drugs - surgery to widen or bypass an affected artery – such as a coronary angioplasty, a coronary artery bypass graft or a carotid endarterctomy

Types of arterial blockage complications

Coronary heart disease (CHD)

When arteries close to your heart narrow, coronary heart disease may develop. This can cause chest pain (angina), a heart attack or heart failure.

Carotid artery disease

If the arteries close to your brain narrow, carotid artery disease may develop. This can cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke).

Peripheral artery disease

When arteries narrow in your arms or legs, circulation problems may develop, resulting in pain, numbness, weakness and coldness in the lower legs.


An aneurysm occurs when the artery wall weakens and bulges. It's a serious complication as the aneurysm can burst and cause dangerous bleeding.

Chronic kidney disease

If arteries leading to the kidneys narrow, it prevents oxygenated blood from reaching them. This can affect kidney function.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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