Risk Factors for Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid artery disease is a disease that effects the blood pathways to your brain. It occurs when fatty deposits known as plaques clog the blood vessels that deliver blood to your brain and head. Carotid arteries are those leading to your brain so when plaques build up in these blood vessels, a blockage can occur. This buildup or blockage increases your risk of stroke, a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or seriously reduced.
Stroke deprives your brain of oxygen. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Stroke is the most common cause of death and the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States.
Carotid artery disease causes about 10 to 20 percent of strokes.
Carotid artery disease develops slowly so in many cases the first sign that you have the condition may be a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a temporary shortage of blood flow to your brain. It is sometimes called a ministroke.
Risk Factors for Carotid Artery Disease
People who have certain conditions or who smoke have an increased risk of carotid artery disease. Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure. Excess pressure on artery walls can weaken them and make them more vulnerable to damage.
- Tobacco use. Nicotine can irritate the inner lining of your arteries. Smoking also increases your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Diabetes. Diabetes lowers your ability to process fats efficiently, placing you at greater risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
- High blood-fat levels. High levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, a blood fat, encourage the accumulation of plaques.
- Family history. Your risk of carotid artery disease is higher if a relative has atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease.
- Age. Arteries become less flexible and more prone to injury with age.
- Obesity. Excess weight increases your chances of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and diabetes.
- Sleep apnea. Spells of stopping breathing at night may increase your risk of stroke.
- Lack of exercise. It contributes to conditions that damage your arteries, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Symptoms of a Stroke or TIA
In many cases, there are no signs or symptoms before the person has a stroke or TIA. In some cases, you might experience:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, often on only one side of the body
- Sudden trouble speaking and understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden dizziness or loss of balance
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. The sooner you or your loved one receives emergency care the better. As medical professionals say - time lost is brain lost.
Solutions for Carotid Artery Disease
In many cases, a patient learns about his or her carotid artery disease because of a stroke. However, if you are concerned you are at risk or if you may already know you have carotid artery disease, Beebe Healthcare's vascular surgery team can help.
Beebe offers an advanced and life-saving procedure called TransCarotid Artery Revascularization or TCAR.
TCAR has been clinically proven as a less-invasive alternative to carotid endarterectomy, a traditional open surgery performed to treat carotid artery disease. What’s unique about TCAR is it temporarily reverses the blood flow during the procedure, so that any small bits of plaque that may break off during the procedure are diverted away from the brain, preventing a stroke from happening. A stent is then placed inside the artery to stabilize the plaque, minimizing the risk of a future stroke.
TCAR is recommended for patients who are considered high risk for traditional surgery due to age, anatomic issues and other medical conditions. A physician will determine if the TCAR procedure is right for a patient on a case-by-case basis based on his/her medical history and workup.
Talk to your doctor to learn if TCAR might be a solution for you.