Carotid arteries are the main blood vessels in your neck that supply your brain with oxygen-rich blood. Carotid artery disease is a serious chronic condition that involves the narrowing of these vital vessels and the potential obstruction of blood flow.
Also known as carotid stenosis, this common disorder is typically caused by atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque deposits along the inner lining of artery walls. Plaque is a thick, sticky, and hardening substance mainly made of dietary fats and cholesterol.
When your carotid arteries are narrowed by plaque, your risk of suffering a stroke increases substantially. Every year in the United States, approximately 700,000 people have a stroke; about 1 in 3 strokes is caused by carotid artery disease.
Plaque buildup in your carotid arteries doesn’t just impede the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain; it can also form small clots that break away from the arterial wall and travel to your brain, resulting in a minor or major stroke. About 1 in 15 deaths in the nation is from stroke.
The major risk factors for carotid artery disease are the same risk factors that increase your chances of developing coronary artery disease (coronary heart disease). They include:
Atherosclerosis begins in early adulthood and typically progresses over many years before disease develops; older adults have a greater risk of carotid stenosis.
People with a family history of atherosclerosis are more likely to develop carotid artery disease.
People with diabetes are four times more likely to develop carotid artery disease than those who don’t have diabetes.
Having uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), being overweight, not getting enough exercise, eating a high-fat diet, and smoking cigarettes are controllable risk factors for carotid artery disease.
Treatment for carotid artery disease has one overriding goal: stroke prevention. When carotid stenosis is in its early stages, treatment may focus on implementing lifestyle modifications to slow the advancement of atherosclerosis.
This may include taking medications to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, or help prevent blood clots.
Serious arterial blockages often require a more aggressive treatment approach, such as:
This surgical procedure removes severe plaque buildup in the carotid artery to restore optimal blood flow to the brain and reduce stroke risk.
This minor procedure uses a catheter, a tiny balloon, and a small mesh coil called a stent to keep a narrowed carotid artery open. To learn about the treatment options for carotid artery disease at Advanced Vascular & Vein Associates, call the office, or book an appointment online today.