Clogged arteries do not typically have symptoms until they cause a heart attack or stroke, reports WebMD. However, when arterial plaque blocks at least 70 percent of the artery, patients have reported chest pain, difficulty breathing, weakness, nausea and heart palpitations, among other symptoms.
When clogged arteries cause carotid heart disease, they may cause transient ischemic attacks, according to WebMD. Transient ischemic attacks are precursors to strokes and cause weakness or numbness in one side of the body, slurring of speech and loss of vision on one side. When clogged arteries form as part of peripheral artery disease, they cause leg pain, cold feet and gangrene, and delay healing in the feet, states WebMD.
Arterial plaque buildup worsens through a process called atherosclerosis that causes the arteries to narrow and harden, according to WebMD. The cause of atherosclerosis is unknown, but it is believed to be related to high cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as cigarette smoke and diabetes. Plaque often starts to accumulate in the arteries during the childhood and teenage years; later, often during middle age, the arteries narrow and harden and become clogged. Plaque is made up of various substances that circulate in the blood, including fat, cholesterol and calcium.