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What happens if plaque in the arteries is not removed?

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Quick Answer

The consequences of not removing arterial plaque depend on the location in the body where the plaque accumulates, according to WebMD. Multiple, serious medical conditions may result from clogged arteries in different parts of the body.

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When plaque accumulates in the arteries carrying blood to the heart, the result is usually coronary artery disease, or heart disease. This can lead to heart attacks, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, as of 2015, notes WebMD. Plaque that accumulates in the carotid arteries on either side of the neck can cut off the supply of oxygen to the brain and lead to stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke). Plaque that builds up in blood vessels carrying blood to the legs also reduces oxygen levels. Known as peripheral artery disease, this can cause pain, numbness or serious infection in the legs and feet.

WebMD warns that clogged arteries often do not cause symptoms until a major health incident, such as a heart attack or stroke, occurs. In other instances, especially when the artery is blocked by 70 percent or more, the accumulation of arterial plaque may cause symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, weakness or dizziness, nausea and sweating.

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