The carotid arteries are blood vessels that run along both sides of your neck and deliver oxygen-rich blood to your brain. In carotid artery disease (CAD), these vessels become narrow due to the buildup of cholesterol-based plaque. These narrowed arteries can cause health problems like stroke and the deterioration of brain tissue due to oxygen deprivation.
Carotid Artery Disease Causes & Symptoms
Carotid artery disease is caused by the buildup of fatty plaques on the walls of the arteries.
Factors that increase the risk of carotid artery disease are the same as heart disease risk factors and include:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Age (risk increases with age because the disease can take several decades to develop)
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Persistently high blood sugar levels
Many people do not experience any signs and symptoms of carotid artery disease until the disease is advanced. A transient ischemic attack(TIA or “mini-stroke”) or stroke may be the first sign you have carotid artery disease.
Your doctor may discover the condition during a routine exam. Bruit (pronounced “broo-EE”) is a characteristic whooshing sound from narrowed carotid arteries as your doctor listens with a stethoscope. Vascular ultrasound can also confirm the presence and severity of carotid stenosis (narrowing).
Treating & Preventing Carotid Artery Disease with Dignity Health
Our advanced carotid artery disease treatment and prevention at Dignity Health will usually focus on reducing the buildup of fatty plaques that clog these important blood vessels. Your doctor may suggest the following strategies to prevent the disease from worsening:
- Medications to reduce blood cholesterol levels, hypertension, and other heart-related conditions or to prevent blood clots
- Surgery to either remove the plaque from the carotid arteries or insert stents to hold the carotid arteries open
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Exercise most days of the week
- Quit smoking
Partner with our cardiologists and other health experts to care for your heart health and overall well-being. Count on the leading expertise of the St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute for the care and treatment of carotid artery disease in Stockton, CA and surrounding areas.