Did you know that stroke is the third major cause of death in the USA? Although often overlooked, stroke is capable of causing irreversible disabilities or even death. In this post, we will focus on a condition called Carotid artery stenosis, a leading risk factor for stroke known for causing about 20% of all strokes.
Carotid artery stenosis top facts
1. Carotid artery stenosis occurs when the artery narrows due to blockage, reducing blood flow
The swirling action of the blood in arteries coupled with other factors such as an increase in cholesterol levels can cause inflammatory substances and cholesterol deposits in the artery called plaque. This buildup’s implication is the narrowing of blood vessels and reduction of blood flow to the target organ.
Stenosis is the medical term for this condition. The carotid artery is located in the neck region and carries blood from the heart to the brain and the face. If stenosis occurs in the carotid arteries, it is referred to as carotid artery stenosis.
2. Carotid artery stenosis is a possible cause of stroke. People suffering from Carotid artery stenosis have a high risk of getting a stroke which, if left unattended, can lead to disabilities or, even worse- death. The stroke risk is posed in two ways:
Risk factor 1 (Most common): Plaque deposit/embolism- Plaque is the fatty substance that forms deposits in an artery wall. If the plaque becomes loose and moves close to the brain, it may block blood flow leading to mini-strokes and rarely large permanent strokes.
Risk factor 2 (Rare): Severe blockage- If the blockage continues to build up, it may narrow the artery even further, reducing blood flow to the brain. This is a serious risk factor that eventually results in major devastating strokes.
3. Carotid artery stenosis can be a sign of other underlying health conditions
If you have a blockage in the Carotid arteries, chances are that the problem replicates in other arteries in the body. The underlying health problems and/or lifestyle behaviors that can cause this medical condition include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, unhealthy diet, inactive lifestyle and smoking. Since people have some level of control over these factors, they are referred to as modifiable risks.
There are non-modifiable risks such as age, genetics and family factors that cannot be changed. It would also help if you understood that there is a direct relationship between heart health and brain-related conditions such as stroke. In this regard, if you practice good health, you will definitely reduce the risk of getting Carotid artery stenosis and thus stroke.
4. Old age is a risk factor
A plaque blockage (mild or severe) can occur in any adult, but older adults are at a higher risk. Men are also more prone to this condition than women.
5. Treatment is individualized and maybe in the form of medications or surgery
This condition’s treatment strategy depends on some specific patients’ factors such as age, healthy history and symptoms shown. The severity of the stenosis is what determines whether medication or surgery treatments will be used. Generally, blockages less than 60% are treated with medications such as Plavix and Aspirin. These drugs prevent blood clots from forming on the blockages. Blockages above 60% are managed with a surgical treatment (Carotid Endarterectomy), where the mass causing the blockage is removed.
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