Can Olive Oil Remove Plaque from Arteries?

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One cause of a heart attack or stroke is plaque rupture within a blood vessel called an artery. When a plaque ruptures, platelets rush to the scene and clump together to form a blood clot. Once formed, the blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke respectively.

One way to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke is to keep plaque from accumulating inside arteries and prevent a rupture of any plaque that’s there. Can olive oil do this? Studies show that people who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, and some health experts believe the abundance of extra-virgin olive oil they eat is a factor. Why olive oil, and can consuming olive oil prevent or remove plaque build-up inside arteries?

What’s Heart-Healthy in Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

It is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, a type of fat that experts believe is healthier for the heart. What fewer people realize is extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, substances that fight free radicals that damage cells and tissues and cause inflammation. Some of the antioxidants in olive oil include tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, and oleuropein. These antioxidants may play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease. In fact, there’s some evidence that components in olive oil can remove plaque inside arteries, thereby lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack.

How might olive oil be protective?

Research shows a diet that contains virgin olive oil enhances the activity of HDL-cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that helps transport cholesterol from arteries back to the liver so it can’t create plaque. Also, based on research, the antioxidants in extra-virgin olive bind to HDL-cholesterol and protect it, so that it’s better able to do its job. That’s a boon for heart health!

In one study, 296 older people at increased risk of heart disease were assigned to eat one of three diets:

  • A Mediterranean diet supplemented with an ounce of extra virgin olive oil weekly
  • A Mediterranean diet supplemented with an ounce of nuts daily
  • A low-fat diet


The study found that subjects who followed the Mediterranean diet had HDL-cholesterol that functioned better to remove plaque, even though their total HDL-cholesterol didn’t go up. Healthier functioning HDL-cholesterol is better able to remove arterial plaque, so less of it builds up and leads to plaque rupture. Whether it can actually reverse already established cardiovascular disease is unclear. It’s more likely that it reduces the build-up of further arterial plaque.

Another way in which extra virgin olive oil may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease is because of its anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, data shows that 3.4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil has the anti-inflammatory equivalent of one-tenth of a dose of ibuprofen. Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, olive oil may lower the risk of other health problems as well, although more research is needed.

Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Healthiest?

The antioxidants in olive oil are called phenols and they likely explain many of its health benefits. The quantity of phenols is higher in extra virgin olive oil relative to olive oil since standard olive oil is more refined. Therefore, it’s best to buy unrefined, extra virgin olive oil to maximize its health benefits. Be sure to choose a brand in a dark bottle that blocks light since light can degrade the quality of extra virgin olive oil. Always store olive oil in a cool, dry place.

Do your research before buying. There’s a lot of olive oil fraud out there. Manufacturers dilute genuine extra-virgin olive oil with cheaper oils, like soybean oil, to cut costs. So, you get a less healthy oil that may lack the desired health benefits. The California Olive Oil Council has a certification program that guarantees extra virgin olive oil that contains their seal is legitimate. So, look for a seal of authenticity.

A diet that contains extra virgin olive oil may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by reigning in inflammation and by improving how HDL-cholesterol functions. Still, research in this area is in its early stages. The best approach is to consume all fats is in moderation, but when you’re choosing a source of fat for cooking or making a salad dressing, olive oil is a heart-healthy option.

References: “Researchers find clues to why diet with olive oil is tied lower heart disease risk”

Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):51-62. doi: 10.2174/1871530317666171116103618.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol . 2006 May;26(5):995-1001. doi: 10.1161/01.ATV.0000214295.86079.d1. Epub 2006 Feb 16.

Nature. 2005 Sep 1;437(7055):45-6. doi: 10.1038/437045a.


Does Getting Hypertension Earlier in Life Carry More Health Risk?


Has your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure? Take it seriously! Hypertension is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also damage blood vessels and many organs in the body, including the heart, kidneys, brain, and retinas in the back of the eyes. In 2018, around 500,000 deaths in the U.S.A. were directly or indirectly due to hypertension.

Here’s the surprising part; you can have high blood pressure and not know you have it. That’s because hypertension often causes no symptoms. The guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure have gotten stricter after research showed that following more rigorous guidelines can lower the rate of death. These days, doctors diagnose hypertension if you consistently have a blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or greater for the systolic, or top number, and 80 mm Hg or greater, for the diastolic, or bottom number.

Why the change in guidelines? Research now suggests that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in those who have hypertension goes up even before a person meets the threshold for hypertension of 130/80 or greater. In fact, the risk of cardiovascular disease starts to rise at a systolic blood pressure of as low as 115 mg Hg, a blood pressure level that’s considered normal. So, lower blood pressure is better up to a point.

How When You Get High Blood Pressure Affects the Risk of Complications


Untreated high blood pressure is harmful at any age, but does it matter when you get it? Hypertension becomes more common with age, but high blood pressure is also becoming more common in younger age groups due to growing rates of obesity.

Does developing high blood pressure earlier in life, as a young adult, increase the risk of health problems and death more than getting it later?

According to a large study carried out by Chinese researchers, developing hypertension earlier in life carries a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and death than receiving the diagnosis later in life. The study showed people who developed high blood pressure before the age of 45 had double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those diagnosed after this age. The study also found that for each decade that passed before subjects developed high blood pressure, the lower their risk of cardiovascular disease was.

You might think you can’t control when you get high blood pressure. But even if you have a strong family history of hypertension, research shows that lifestyle changes can delay its onset. The obvious factors that slow the onset of hypertension and help with blood pressure control are aerobic exercise and eating a healthy, unprocessed diet. However, a 2015 study also found that staying a healthy body weight and getting adequate sleep helps slow the onset of hypertension in people with borderline high blood pressure readings. Therefore, it’s important to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle as early as possible, especially if you’re at high risk of hypertension due to family history.

The Bottom Line

Developing hypertension earlier, before age 45, increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease more than getting it later in life. However, the most important factor is to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible to reduce damage to blood vessels, the heart, and other organs. Also, this study suggests that it’s important to teach healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of hypertension.

Regardless of when you develop hypertension, keep close tabs on your pressures and make the lifestyle changes necessary to keep it under control. If your physician prescribes blood pressure medications, take them too. Even if you need medications, lifestyle factors are important for preventing the complications of high blood pressure such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Consider checking your blood pressure at home and keep an accurate record. It’s hard to maintain good control when you only get a reading a few times per year when you see your doctor. Check it several times per day to see how it varies. When you have this information, your doctor can better adjust your medications to keep your pressure under control throughout the day.

Low Blood Pressure Diet Plan: DASH Diet Explain

The Right Fit: 7 Factors That Affects Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement


References: 2018 Jul 1;107:108-115. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.02.016. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

Int J Med Sci. 2015; 12(7): 605-612.Published online 2015 Jul 16. doi: 10.7150/ijms.12446. “Facts About Hypertension” “Excess Risks of Hypertension Greatest With Younger Age at Onset”