Blocked arteries result from high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat, which produce plaque that adheres to the artery walls and prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the rest of the body. Lowering cholesterol and saturated fat may reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and other heart-related conditions such as shortness of breath, dizziness and irregular heartbeats. Certain foods can help you lower blood cholesterol.
Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, lake trout, halibut and albacore tuna, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that may help reduce your blood pressure and your risk of blood clots, heart attack and sudden death from clogged arteries. Bake or grill the fish and avoid adding unhealthy fats, such as trans fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils like margarine or shortening. Trans fats are also present in fast foods and processed foods, such as salad dressings, breads, cakes, cookies and frozen foods. Research published in "Circulation" in 2004 concludes that fish consumption reduces fatal coronary heart disease, especially by eating it at least once per week.
Walnuts and Flaxseeds
You may also obtain omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts and flaxseeds. These foods contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid, or ALA, that may lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides. Add walnuts and flaxseeds to your cereals, breads, salads, entrees, side dishes and desserts; eat a handful of walnuts as a snack between meals.
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat your body needs to produce and maintain cellular membranes, hormones and other important molecules. Extra virgin olive oil may lower total cholesterol; LDL, or "bad" cholesterol; and triglycerides. It also helps increase HDL, the "good" cholesterol. The Mayo Clinic recommends 2 tbsp. of olive oil per day; add it to your salads, vegetables, sauces and other foods. Research published in "Clinical Cardiology" in 2007 found that olive oil may reduce your risk of coronary artery disease by 47 percent.
Foods with high amounts of soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, beans, apples and psyllium seed, may lower your LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber may reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. For every 10 g of dietary fiber you consume each day, you may reduce 12.5 mg per dL of blood cholesterol, according to research published in the "Journal of Nutritional Science" in 2006.
- The Cleveland Clinic: Coronary Artery Disease - Overview
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers
- "Circulation"; Accumulated Evidence on Fish Consumption and Coronary Heart Disease Mortality; He, K.; June 8, 2004
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference