Blocked arteries, also popularly referred to by the associated members of the medical community as Atherosclerosis, is the accumulation of fatty and fibrous material in the arteries.
The harrowing condition can affect all the arteries in the body including those that supply precious blood to the heart, brain, and legs. A blocked artery can play an atrocious role in causing symptoms such as chest pain and life-threatening conditions such as a stroke or heart attack.
What causes atherosclerosis?
Our artery walls start accumulating fatty material since a young age. The fatty material that we collect is not identified by the body as it is foreign and that causes inflammation.
Our self-healing arteries then attempt to clear up the inflammation by repairing the tissue, creating a seal of fibrous material over the fatty core.
Now, as time passes, a plaque is formed consisting of the inflammation, the fatty material, cholesterol, cellular waste, protein, calcium, and the fibrous tissue around it.
The process continues, resulting in a more prominent plaque that finally blocks the arteries.
The arteries in the neck are known as carotid arteries and atherosclerosis can also block the arteries in the neck, making them narrower and less flexible over time.
Carotid arteries are mostly responsible for supplying blood to your brain, and a carotid artery located on each side of your neck.
Therefore, when the carotid arteries blocked, the amount of blood flow that supplied to your brain also decreases, leading to life-threating conditions such as a stroke.
According to reliable sources and statistics, most of the people who suffer from strokes have carotid artery disease to blame for their unfavorable conditions.
A stroke occurs when there is poor blood circulation in the neck area and the blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Thus, when the carotid arteries blocked, blood cannot be supplied to the brain. This disastrously results in a loss of brain function or even death.
The blood supply can be interrupted in many ways. Narrowed carotid arteries won´t be able to supply enough blood to the brain.
A piece of plaque may simply break off and lodge in one of the smaller arteries of your brain.
It is also possible for the blood clots to form in your carotid artery, and thus, obstruct the blood flow. Blood clots can even break off and block a smaller artery in your brain.
Carotid artery disease symptoms?
It is challenging to identify carotid artery disease in its initial stage. Therefore, you will start suffering from symptoms only after one of your carotid arteries completely blocked.
You can also suffer from the symptoms when more than 80% of your carotid arteries blocked.
When your carotid artery is nearly blocked, the chances of you getting a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke increases drastically.
TIA is referred to as a mini-stroke because it has symptoms similar to a stroke. Other symptoms you can experience include problems in your eyesight and vision, trouble speaking or understanding, sudden numbness and weakness in the face, arms, or legs, severe headache, dizziness, and drooping on one side of your face, pain.
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should visit the doctor´s office as soon as possible.
Is there anything you can do to prevent and treat carotid artery disease?
Well, there are several things you can do to prevent and treat carotid artery disease. First and foremost, you must make drastic lifestyle changes.
If you are a chain smoker, you should quit smoking immediately. You can also decrease your chances of suffering from carotid artery disease by exercising frequently and eating healthy food.
It is recommended for you to limit the inclusion of fat and cholesterol in your diet, reduce your consumption of alcohol, and keep your weight in check. Regular exercise plays an instrumental role in lowering your blood pressure, increasing good cholesterol levels, and improving heart health.
You must look for warning signs when the disease is still in its early stages.
And, to do that, you need to check your blood pressure regularly, examine your cholesterol and blood sugar levels at least once a year, take an annual carotid Doppler ultrasound test, and primarily attend regular checkups with your doctor.
However, if you are diagnosed after having a stroke, there may be a need for the doctor to perform minor surgeries. There are commonly two ways to treat this disease.
The doctor may perform Carotid endarterectomy surgery if you suffer from a severe carotid artery disease. What are the steps to this process? Well, you are first given anesthesia before the start of the surgery.
Then, the doctor proceeds to make an incision in the front of your neck. The trained medical professional then opens your carotid artery and removes the blockages, clearing clogged pathways.
After the removal of the plaques, the doctor stitches back the artery. This treatment can help drastically decrease the chances of strokes in the future.
The other option described as the carotid artery stent. In this procedure, the doctor uses a balloon to widen a narrowed section of the artery. A stent (small wire coil) is then placed inside to keep the artery open.
This procedure is preferred when the blockage is significant, inconveniently located, or if you have other serious health problems that make you a high-risk surgical candidate.