Carotid Artery Disease
A buildup of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries can impair blood flow to the brain, increasing the risk of stroke.
Carotid artery disease tends to appear later in life in women than in men. Historically, women who have no other symptoms of disease are less likely to benefit from surgery than are men.
Causes of Carotid Artery Disease
The factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease also contribute to carotid artery disease. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Unfavorable lipid profile
- Insulin resistance
- Lack of exercise
- Family history
Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is usually the first sign of carotid artery disease. TIAs, or warning strokes, may include:
- Sudden weakness or even paralysis of a leg, arm or hand.
- Slurring, garbled or inappropriate speech.
- Blindness or severe blurring of vision in one eye.
- One-sided facial droop.
- Blackout spells or severe headaches.
These symptoms usually last only a few minutes and do not have lasting effects.
Diagnosing Carotid Artery Disease
One of the warning signs described above is usually the first hint of carotid artery disease. However, doctors may often detect significant narrowings of the carotids during a physical exam, when they hear a bruit—the sound of turbulent blood flow—in the neck as they listen through a stethoscope. The location and extent of blockages in the arteries can be determined through duplex echocardiography or MRI.
Treating Carotid Artery Disease
When imaging indicates significantly narrowed carotid arteries, especially in patients who have had TIAs, carotid atherectomy or carotid angioplasty are often recommended to reduce the risk of stroke. Patients who have no symptoms may be treated with medication to improve lipids, reduce blood pressure and prevent clotting.
Nutrition and Prevention
Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Healthy Diet
- Reduce Stress
- Stop Smoking
- Healthy Cholesterol Levels
- Reduce Sodium
Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011
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