by Paul Chiam

DO YOU like burgers, steaks and other food high in saturated fat? You’re risking clogging up your arteries and heading for the operation table. We ask Dr Paul Chiam, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, if clogging in the arteries can be reversed and whether heart stenting is a good alternative to heart bypass surgery.

What causes clogged arteries? Can it be reversed?

The blockage in the arteries is due to deposition and build up of cholesterol in the artery walls. Once that occurs, it is not likely that the process can be reversed.

What happens to the fat we eat from meat?

Some of the fat gets “burned up” for energy, some gets stored in the liver, and the rest gets deposited into various parts of the body as “body fat”.

Does it all get clogged in our arteries? 

No, as explained above. But a high saturated fat (animal fat) diet increases cholesterol levels and that may increase cholesterol deposits in the arteries.

My father has heart disease and may need to go for an operation. He is afraid that it may be an invasive procedure. Is heart stenting an option we can look into?

Yes, heart artery stenting is a good alternative option for many patients. What are the chances of recurrence? The likelihood of renarrowing in the stented artery segment is between 5-10%. Commonly, this is due to “scar” tissue growth inside the stent. However, other parts of the non-stented heart arteries can also narrow. Good diabetic control, blood pressure control, cholesterol control, and not smoking will all help to reduce the risk of such narrowing.

Can I get heart stenting instead of a heart bypass?

Yes, for most patients. Heart artery stenting is now an established minimally invasive option to heart bypass.

I heard gingivitis can lead to heart disease. What’s the link?

There is some evidence to suggest that gingivitis can lead to heart disease. The hypothesis is that gingivitis causes inflammation. Inflammation can affect the artery inner walls, increasing plaque build up and also making such artery plaques unstable, leading to heart disease.


Dr Paul Chiam is a cardiologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore. He specialises in interventional cardiology, and performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in Asia in 2009.

The “Ask a doctor” series is run in partnership with Mount Elizabeth Hospitals.


Featured image by Edward Franklin on Unsplash.

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