What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease involves constriction of the carotid arteries, mostly due to atherosclerosis. It is important to note that atherosclerosis is the accumulation of cholesterol, fat and other substances such as proteins, inflammatory cells, calcium and cellular waste products. These substances adhere to the walls of the blood vessels over time as one starts to age and combine to form plaque.

This buildup of plaque can lead to the blockage or narrowing in the carotid artery which puts the individual at higher risk for stroke.

Close look on the carotid arteries

carotid-artery-disease

This buildup of plaque can lead to the blockage or narrowing in the carotid artery which puts the individual at higher risk for stroke.

The arteries transport oxygenated blood away from the heart to the entire body. There are 2 carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. These can be felt on each side of the lower neck, beneath the angle of the jaw.

Risk factors for carotid artery disease

The risk factors that are associated to the formation of atherosclerosis include:

  • Family history of atherosclerosis
  • Age – as one starts to age, men below 75 years of age are at higher risk while women are at risk after the age of 75
  • Smoking
  • Elevated level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides in the blood
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Take note that the carotid arteries can become diseased a few years later than the coronary arteries. Individuals with coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis face a higher risk for carotid artery disease.

When to consult a doctor

It is vital to seek emergency care if the individual experiences any indications of a stroke. Even if they are brief and the individual claims that he/she feels normal, a doctor must be consulted right away. There is a possibility that he/she experienced TIA which is an important indication that he/she is at risk for a full-blown stroke.

An individual with any of the risk factors must consult a doctor. Even if there are no indications, the doctor might suggest aggressive management of the risk factors to protect against stroke.

Consulting a doctor early increases the chances that the condition is discovered and promptly treated before a stroke occurs.

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