4 Silent Signs You May Have Clogged Arteries | Reader's Digest

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.

By Joel K. Kahn, MD N
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine December 2013
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    Bryan Christie Design for Reader’s Digest

    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).

    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.

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    Erectile dysfunction (ED) could mean clogged arteries.

    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.

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    Baldness could indicate clogged arteries.

    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. 

    Bryan Christie Design for Reader’s Digest

    Ear crease might indicate clogged arteries.

    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.

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    Calf pain when you walk might mean clogged arteries.

    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.

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

    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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    Your Comments

    • cindy

      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

      • randy

        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

    • Bill Sparkington

      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.

    • cbhjj

      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!

      • Alley cat lover

        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.

    • Aletta Vandenberg

      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

    • xoxoforever@yahoo.com

      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!

      • Rach

        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.

    • Susan Cannon

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

      • NPM

        Typical woman, trying to make everything about themselves.

    • HP Austin

      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.)

    • errn

      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.

      • TravelMom

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

    • Cathy Antone

      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

    • Cathy Antone

      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

      • Puneet Asnani

        U r Lucky Enough You Don’t Have A Heart Attack

      • Margaret Burgett

        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.

      • cindy

        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

      • rosemondaf

        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?”