Carotid Artery Disease (CAD)
What are Carotid Arteries?
The carotid arteries carry blood from the heart to the brain, travelling through the neck. Everyone has two carotid arteries, one on each side of the neck, the carotid artery divides into two branches, the external and internal carotid arteries.
The internal carotid artery carries blood to the brain, while the external carotid artery carries blood to the face.
What Causes Carotid Artery Disease?
Turbulence at the division of the carotid artery causes all of us to develop some mild narrowing within this artery as we age.
Plaque buildup in the carotid arteries also contributes to CAD. Plaque is composed of fat and cholesterol that deposits within the walls of the arteries. These deposits develop and cause stenosis, or narrowing, of the carotid artery(s) which can lead to blockages.
In some patients this narrowing becomes very severe. Severe narrowing of the carotid artery can lead to stroke. Plaque and tiny clots can accumulate on the blockage, only to then be swept away up to the brain where they can cause temporary or permanent strokes.
Risk Factors: What can increase your risks for CAD?
- Continued use of Tobacco
- High blood pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Related Family history
- Lifestyle that lacks regular exercise
All of the above factors can contribute to plaque build up otherwise known as atherosclerosis. By simply making a few lifestyle changes like stopping tobacco use, keeping health conditions; diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, etc., well managed along with staying active can all greatly help reduce your risks of developing or worsening atherosclerosis.
Depending on the severity of the carotid artery narrowing there are both surgical and non-surgical options to manage CAD.
The surgical procedure for CAD is called a: Carotid Endarterectomy this surgery is performed to clean severe blockages from the carotid artery, thereby reducing a patient’s risk of stroke.
Non-surgical options include lifestyle changes along with close monitoring to make sure there are no major changes that would require surgical intervention.