The typical American diet, which is high in animal-based and processed fats, contributes to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. If you have -- or suspect you have -- buildup of arterial plaque, you should take steps to try to clear it away. Certain vitamins may help a bit, but other measures are more effective.
Your arteries deliver blood from the heart to the body cells, and your cells depend upon a constant blood supply for both oxygen and nutrients. If your arteries become blocked, the tissues dependent upon blood flow through the blocked artery can begin to suffer. A buildup of atherosclerotic plaque is one of the causes of arterial blockage; plaque consists of cholesterol and other substances found in blood.
Clearing Away Plaque
If you have a buildup of plaque in your arteries, you're at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. As a result, if your doctor suspects or confirms that you're developing coronary heart disease, one facet of which is arterial plaque buildup, you'll need to take lifestyle measures to stop -- and, ideally, reverse -- the disease progression to reduce your likelihood of suffering a serious cardiovascular event.
Vitamins play many important roles in the body, but while they help maintain normal cellular function, they're not medications, and they can't treat acute illness. No vitamin helps to clear plaque out of the arteries, but vitamin E appears to help slow the deposit of further plaque, explains Dr. Ramin Rabbani and colleagues in a 1999 article in "Cardiovascular Research." This effect occurs with vitamin E that occurs naturally in food, however; studies show mixed results with vitamin E supplements.
While not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent the formation of arterial plaque, explains the American Heart Association. If you incorporate more omega-3 fat -- found in cold-water fish and in limited plant sources -- into your diet, particularly if you incorporate it instead of consuming saturated and trans fat, you'll be less likely to develop arterial plaque, and over time, plaques that have formed can start to reverse themselves.