4 Silent Signs You May Have Clogged Arteries

These four surprising clues can point to clogged arteries and underlying heart disease, according to Joel K. Kahn, MD.

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Each year in the United States, more than 700,000 people suffer a heart attack, and almost 400,000 people die of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Each year in the United States, more than 700,000 people suffer a heart attack, and almost 400,000 people die of coronary heart disease (CHD).Bryan Christie Design for Reader’s Digest
Preventing heart disease in patients is my main goal, but early detection is the next best thing. This can lead to changes in lifestyle and medical therapies that can delay or deny the onset of a heart attack; almost 80 percent of heart disease is preventable with lifestyle changes. Many of my patients are shocked to learn about the following clues to underlying heart disease.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) could mean clogged arteries.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) could mean clogged arteries.iStock/Thinkstock
Men have a built-in warning system for silent CHD. When achieving an erection is difficult or impossible, it can be a sign of clogged arteries in the pelvis that presents before a heart attack hits. There are, on average, three to five years between the onset of ED and the finding of CHD, which is plenty of time to detect and to work on preventing heart issues. If you and your partner are worried about sexual performance, look for and treat root causes of diseased arteries before just popping a blue pill.

Baldness could indicate clogged arteries.

Baldness could indicate clogged arteries.Photodisc/Thinkstock
In a comprehensive new study of almost 37,000 men, severe baldness at the crown of the head strongly predicted the presence of silent CHD at any age. In a separate study of more than 7,000 people (including over 4,000 women), moderate to severe baldness doubled the risk of dying from heart disease in both sexes. 

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Ear crease might indicate clogged arteries.

Ear crease might indicate clogged arteries.Bryan Christie Design for Reader’s Digest
One of the stranger markers, a crease in your earlobe (specifically, an angled crease in the ear that runs diagonally from the canal to the lower edge of the earlobe) has been mentioned in medical research reports as a sign of silent CHD for decades. The ear crease may result from poor circulation, including in arteries in the heart. Although some medical professionals have argued that a crease is just a general sign of aging, researchers last year used the most sophisticated CT scan method to measure silent CHD and found that ear crease predicted heart disease even after the authors accounted for other risk factors, such as age and smoking.

Calf pain when you walk might mean clogged arteries.

Calf pain when you walk might mean clogged arteries.Hemera/Thinkstock
This is known as claudication (from the Latin for “to limp”). Atherosclerosis can block leg arteries, particularly in smokers, before CHD is diagnosed. This symptom requires an evaluation without delay. Your doctor will examine the pulses in your legs and perform simple measurements of leg blood pressure and blood flow to confirm a diagnosis of poor circulation. It is critical that heart disease be diagnosed as early as possible because there are many dietary and medical treatments that can help reverse the issue. Some of my patients took these early clues to heart. I advised them to eat more plant-based foods and fewer animal products and to start a walking program. Their calf pain completely resolved within weeks and has not recurred for years. Anyone with any of the above signs of silent CHD should know his or her numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting glucose). Ask your doctor if you should be checked for heart disease with an EKG, a coronary calcium CT imaging, or an exercise stress testing. To borrow from Ben Franklin, an ounce of prevention (plus a bowl of kale) is worth a pound of cure.

Next: What are the best foods to eat to avoid clogged arteries?

Next: What are the best foods to eat to avoid clogged arteries?iStock/Thinkstock
Certain heart-healthy foods truly act like medicine for your blood vessels, says Dr. Kahn. These are the best foods to eat to prevent or reverse heart disease »

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31 thoughts on “4 Silent Signs You May Have Clogged Arteries

  1. My freind just woke up deeply fighting gasping for air to breath, gave me a sign to hit him on the back of his his back underneath the neck between the middle of shoulders. it was horrible then he gets air but goes running to the toilet to thru up. What in the world is happening to him? It’s not the first time this happens?

  2. my name is cindy i was just wondering if i need to see a dr iv been having sharp pains in the right side of my neck down into my chest havent noticed short breaths but do get a bit dizzy when i get to bed sometimes its worse i hear about blocked arteries and my colesteral is very bad

    1. My name is randy. Im 39. I has massive heart attack at the age of 36. I was a firefighter and in best shape of my life. U never know. So if u have any signs get checked out do not put it off. bennett444@rocketmail. Com

      1. It’s about what you eat.. avoid meat and dairy and you;ll be good.. I know you firemen love to cook.. sometimes having that advantage can be detrimental to your health.. a lot of wealthy people have ill health too because they can afford to eat out all the time and foods cooking in oil, meats and creams will eventually kill you.. doesn’t matter how much exercise you get..

  3. I have the ear crease. I first learned it on Dr. Oz. Have to admit it scared me. So I had never had a heart health screening done. I paid $125 for the basic screening at a local clinic. The scans of my arteries came back clean. So the physician suggested the next step was a treadmill test. The morning it was scheduled, there was an inch of ice on the roads. They never called so I drove down and they were there, waiting for me. They hooked me up to the EKG and had me start walking. The lady kept cranking it and asked for my pain levels. We got to 30 minutes of this and she said, “Oh surely you have some pain by now.” I told her I walked consistently 5 miles per day on my employer’s treadmill in the wellness center. I set it at maximum tilt and 3mph. She finally stopped it as I was getting tired, not pain. So the doctor said it was inconclusive but the EKG showed no heart faults. So, we waited until insurance paid that bill and then he schedule me for an echocardiogram. I sat on my side as the lady shot ultrasound videos of my heart. I actually did have some pain but mostly from having to keep on my side for so long. I had a muscle spasm. You see a 3d image of your heart with multiple colors of the valves opening and closing along with electrical activity of the heart muscle systems. She refused to tell me anything when it was done and that worried me. But the doc said it was all good, no valve or electrical defects. But I wasn’t satisfied, Dr. Oz said people with that crease in the ear had heart problems. I bugged my physician enough he referred me to the clinic’s cardiologist. With AETNA’s out-of-pocket being met, the cardiologist scheduled me for an angiogram. Yes, a $6000 procedure that would cost me a $150 copay, of which they wound up forgiving anyway. So, they poke a hole in an artery in my leg and then put me out. I wake up with a huge bandage on my groin. I go home and wait until that call from the doctor. He calls me and says my arteries are clean, no blockages and no plaque buildup. Of course I had an idea because I’ve been taking 100mg of aspirin, tons of garlic, and plenty of niacin for more than 20 years.
    So, I can official and with knowledge and education say the creased ear thing is bull$hit. I’m going to die like most men in my family. It will be from a dangerous activity, some kind of accident, or some kind of infection at age 98.

    1. Bill, this is great news for you personally, but the ear-crease thing is a statistical correlation,not an infallible test. It doesn’t mean “you have heart disease”. It means “elevated risk, get evaluated” – as you did. Here’s hoping we both die in a way that makes us happy ;-)

    2. Yeah, common sense too tells us that ear crease is bullcrap.. anyone over 40 probably has it..and women especially due to the weight of earrings..

  4. I can confirm the ear crease. Both my parents have heart issues and have had surgery. Whenever their heart issue come back the first thing you can clearly see is their ear crease. In both of their cases the ear lobes swell up and their crease becomes very defined, between the two of them they have had 12 surgeries and it has always shown the signs in their crease, everytime!

    1. That certainly is good info to know. Heart disease runs in my family also. My mom passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 63 and my brother had a quintuple heart surgery a few years ago. Scary stuff!
      I hope your parents are doing ok with their heart issues.

  5. Hi – Aletta Vandenberg
    I have blocked arteries to the heart – I have been in hospital – but so far they have only done an angiogram. The blockage is caused by the pacemaker – and also the infusion port. I am waiting to have the port taken out. Hopefully this week but the vascular surgeon thinks it’s more from the pacemaker. My symptons are swollen face – and also my body has been making new pathways for the blood to flow through., shortness of breath, and no energy,
    hands arms, having trouble with breathing and the throat has been feeling constricted. I am also on Klaxane injections to help dissolve blood clots. I also have pain in my legs. Just some info…….
    I have difficulty doing things. I go purple in the face even just by bending over.
    I hope that this is resolved./ maybe it will help; others……
    alettavdberg@optusnet.com.au if anyone wants to talk or write to me. re this.
    I have 2 blocked arteries – one in the middle and one on the side where the pacemaker and portacat are going into…… Annoyjing this and it’s all because I had breast cancer nearly 5 years ago and had pacemaker put in because the Herceptin that I was on reacted to the heart…….. grr… The things we go though. I am only 56 nearly 57

  6. I’m only 31 and my dr suspects clogged arteries. I go for testing this week. Been out of breath for 3 yrs and it’s progressively getting worse. Can barely get dressed or shower. I get out of breath just closing a door gently and I can’t even open a window without fainting. Just writing this up there in case anyone else has these symptoms, email me xoxoforever@yahoo.com. I’d like to help others and have support as well. I’m a female and I see this article was written for men but still. I am very disabled from something. They think it is cardiovascular related. When I roll over in bed my heart palpitates and I nearly pass out. I get faint feeling from laughing and talking. If anyone else has these symptoms and has been diagnosed, please email me. You would be helping me out!

    1. Hi there, I hope you have worked out what might be going on with your heart. I have just had blood tests for cholesterol e.t.c I am 38 female. Have family hist of high cholesterol and strokes. My main symptom is very painful and tired legs going up even a small amount of stairs and I have trouble finishing my cardio at the gym. Hurts my legs too much. Will wait and see. I hope the news from your doctors is ok.

  7. What a great article – for MEN. What about signals for WOMEN??? Last I checked, erectile dysfunction isn’t a problem for us.

  8. Read the book “Is Your Cardiologist Killing You?” by Dr. Sherry Rogers MD. It is the best short source of information on what you should do. Also, there’s a product called “Blockbuster All Clear” that contains serrapeptase and 15 other supplements and it seems to work. Vitamin K2 reduces plaque in arteries. Pomegranate juice, 4 ounces per day, clears plaque by about 13% in 3 months and about 30% in 12 months. POM brand 100% pomegranate juice is sold at Whole Foods and grocery stores such as HEB. Carlson’s E Gems Elite contains all 8 types of Vitamin E and is very helpful. Cod liver oil from the Arctic is recommended by Dr. Rogers. Root canals and periodontal disease CAUSE some heart disease because the bacteria inflame the coronary arteries (see the book “Root Canal Coverup” by Hal Huggins or one of his other books). Magnesium is very important to heart health. Try the Malate or Citrate forms. Check out the “Total Wellness” newsletter by Sherry Rogers for very helpful information. (I do not profit one cent by any of this advice.)

  9. OMG These are things that they don’t tell you I always worried about my husband because he had the creases in his ears, always told me I was crazy. I lost my husband 5 months ago to a massive heart attack. He turned 60 two months before he died. He had ED, Creases in his ears, and had had a DVT in his legs we are both nurses and he had no signs except those I just read if we had only knew my husband of almost 42 years would maybe still with me.

    1. Wow – so sorry for your loss. I’m hoping that my husband will listen to me… so scary.

  10. thank you Margaret. It was all really scary but I mad it through with flying colors with Gods help.
    Am back home & feeling pretty great.
    Merry Christmas
    CAthy A

  11. I was having trouble this past week with a pressure in my chest & shortness of breath. I went to my doctor & he sent me to the hospital to have tests ran.(they came back good) the next day my dr sent me to a heart dr. He ran more test & the mostly came back good. BUT he wanted to do a catherization the next day because H thought I had a little blockage. haha. when he did the catherization he found 3 blocked arteries one on both sides of my heart & one in the middle of the heart. Now I will have a triple bypass on tue or wendsday of this week, I haven’t smoked or drank for over 30 years. I am almost 60 in jan what a shocker.
    Thanks CAthy Antone

    1. Cathy, wishing you the best of luck. Will say a prayer for you. I had this happen to me a few years ago. Everything worked out great. And it will for you also.

    2. i was wondering about pain i get sharp pain in the right side of my neck down into my chest i dont yhink iv noticed short breathing but i have dizzyness

    3. Awesome. I went to the emergency room after about 6 weeks of symptoms that drove me crazy. the same day I had a bypass surgery. that was December 2013. I feel like a champ now but I do exercise, take aspirins, vitamins, and pills that fight against plaque build up. Now it’s my diet that I’m working on. I don’t ever want that experience again if at all possible and I believe it’s possible. “Amen?”

    4. Cathy
      Since this article was posted 9 months ago, I’m hoping your surgery was successful and you’re back doing the things you love. I had the same story when I was 48 and am now 63 and going strong. Just listen to your cardiologist and drink lots of water. Good luck.

    5. It’s not about smoking or drinking, although this may contribute, it’s about not watching the cholesterol content in your food. I had a bypass on the artery that crosses the heart. I had robotic surgery. Out in three days, back to work in three weeks. Now I take a statin and an aspirin daily, and watch the cholesterol content of everything I eat. I don’t go over 35 mg’s for anything. Don ‘t want to have to go through that again.

    6. Ugh.. if you only knew.. buy the fasting book by DR. Joel Furhman..he’s been on Dr. Oz.. and is very well established and liked and respected by many MD’s.. He says a 2 week water fast will clear and unblock all your arteries.. I’m getting ready to do this myself.. The book says if you do it longer than 3 days you should be supervised but I don’t go to doctors so I’m on my own for 2 weeks..Good luck to you.. but I would say put the surgery off because they can’t help you really.. they can’t go in and unclog every single artery inside you.. they can only do one or two or a few.. so it’s really pointless.. do the water fast..

      1. Opps.. never mind, I thought this article was new..do the water fast to clear the rest of your arteries.. take your health into your own hands and research the internet it’s all there.. never take the drugs those dr. drug pushers recommend because they will kill you in no time.

    7. I am almost at the begining of the course. I have had a treadmill stress test last September which came out positive. I am affraid of catheterization. I haven’t done it yet. I am 42 woman, not menopausal, with normal weight all over my life. I was a smoker but now I try to quit. I never thought it would happen to me. It was a surprise to find out that all my symptoms was not in my mind.

    8. I just turned 65 when I ended up having a double bypass for one 100 per cent blocked, one 95 per cent blocked arteries – out of my three arteries. I had no idea or had typical symptoms of heart disease. What I did experience was a slow down of being able to do physical activity. I felt this weird feeling of anxiety. Thinking it was psychology produced, I thought maybe my thyroid was acting up. Mentioning this to my internist, he told me to go to the ER. They did three EKG’s and acted like I should have been in pain, but I felt nothing unusual other than them making me feel nervous. They told me the EKG readings were all over the place. So – I can truly understand that it is a silent disease among women. I was at a good weight, my cholesterol was 157, I never smoked, and I was fairly active. Never ate fried foods, red meat hardly, no excessive salt ( did not have high blood pressure) and I can true fully say that if anything was wrong with my diet – it was too much sugar. Also, it runs in my family history, but what gets my goat is that I ended up being the youngest female to have a mild heart attack (which I couldn’t tell you when I had it) and ended up this way when other family members smoked, etc.

    9. I am also a heart patient. Take a glass of promogenate juice on an empty stomach every day. Best of luck.

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