As the 5th leading cause of death in the United States, stroke can happen due to several conditions. One of those is carotid artery disease, which is when plaque builds up and blocks the arteries on either side of the neck that carries blood to the head, face and brain. Knowing the risk factors and the signs and symptoms of carotid artery disease can help you stay ahead of this condition and hopefully prevent a stroke from occurring.
Here are five things you should know:
Males over 50 are at higher risk. The risk factors for developing blockages in the artery are similar to those for other types of heart disease, including age (over age 50), gender (male), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, smoking and diabetes. If you are concerned you are at risk for carotid artery disease, be sure to share your concerns with your doctor so you can be screened and/or monitored.
Carotid artery disease may be asymptomatic. Symptomatic disease may result in either a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and/or a stroke. Plaques in the artery may break, causing a small particle to dislodge and travel up the bloodstream into the brain, blocking off small branches in the brain and resulting in a stroke.
Stroke symptoms are the same as for TIA. These include sudden weakness, clumsiness or paralysis of an arm and/or leg on one side of the body; confusion, dizziness, fainting or headache; numbness or loss of sensation in the face, arm or leg; temporary loss of vision or blurred vision; and the inability to speak clearly or slurred speech.
A TIA rarely results in permanent brain damage, but a stroke will. Symptoms from a TIA usually go away within 24 hours. Recovery from a stroke depends on the size and location of the stroke and can result in problems such as weakness in the arm or leg, paralysis, loss of speech or even death.
TIAs may precede a stroke, but not always. It’s important to seek medical help immediately, no matter whether you suspect TIA or stroke.