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Everything You Need to Know About Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid artery stenosis, or better known simply as carotid artery disease, occurs when the two main arteries — one located on each side of the neck — that carry blood from the heart to the brain and head narrow. This condition is typically caused by a gradual buildup of plaque within the artery, which over time leads in the narrowing of it. If untreated, this disease can increase the likelihood of a stroke, which can result in permanent long-term medical issues and even death.

What causes carotid stenosis? Being the disease is progressive, it's largely a combination of a number of factors over time. Those who suffer from medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis. Smoking is another risk factor. In this post, we'll cover everything that you should know about carotid artery disease, from its early symptoms to how it's treated to how to prevent it. Here's a look:

Early Symptoms of Carotid Artery Stenosis

In some cases, carotid stenosis may be an unknown health condition and not evident until an individual experiences signs of a stroke or suffers an actual stroke. In other situations, an annual medical physical exam may suggest to a doctor that there's an issue, which may be followed up with a specialty test, like a carotid ultrasound. And in other cases, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms that individuals and healthcare professionals alike can take note of that may indicate a problem. Here's a look at some of the early symptoms of carotid artery stenosis to be on the lookout for:

  • Difficulty seeing suddenly or blindness.
  • Slurring speech without alcohol consumption or other obvious causes.
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness in the face and/or arm and/or leg.
  • Inability to speak or understand speech.
  • Confusion and memory problems.

Treating Carotid Artery Stenosis

The good news about carotid artery stenosis is that it's treatable and certain lifestyle choices can make living with the disease more manageable. Mild cases can even be treated with over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, which can help decrease the likelihood of blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke. More severe blockages typically involve a more invasive surgical procedure where an endarterectomy is performed to remove plaque buildup within the artery and restore normal blood flow.

As we hinted above, following a carotid artery stenosis, individuals should make immediate changes to their lifestyle, which may include quitting smoking, adopting a healthier diet, exercising more and taking medication to treat conditions that may be aiding in plaque buildup. Eating healthy is particularly important, and a steady diet of fruits and vegetables don't just provide antioxidants, reduce inflammation and strengthen connective tissue, but stimulate blood flow throughout the body as well. A good diet isn't just important for heart health, but vein health as well. 

How to Prevent Carotid Artery Stenosis and Other Vein Issues

As we noted above, the best way to prevent carotid artery stenosis is to live a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and refrain from any lifestyle habits — like smoking — that could lead to long-term health issues. Additionally, preventative medical care is key to catching certain health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that could lead to the sudden onset of carotid artery stenosis. 

Contact Premier Heart and Vein Care for More Information

One of the ways to diagnose carotid artery stenosis is via a carotid ultrasound, a non-invasive, safe procedure where images of the body's internal structures are taken and can be analyzed to assess the carotid artery's overall health in real-time. At Premier Heart and Vein Care, we're proud to offer this type of test as a way to carefully examine the health of the carotid artery. Contact us today, and we'll be happy to introduce you to Dr. Ken Stevens, our industry-leading vein physician. Contact our office today for more information.

What Are the Symptoms of Heart Disease?

Heart disease a serious condition that can increase your risk of serious complications, such as a heart attack or stroke. If you have heart disease, you need to seek treatment from a cardiologist as soon as possible. Below is some information to help you understand heart disease and recognize the symptoms so you can catch it as early as possible.
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What to Do if Heart Disease Runs in Your Family

If heart disease runs in your family, you may be nervous about your chances of developing this condition. However, having a family history of heart disease doesn't necessarily mean you will have a heart problem. Nonetheless, you need to be vigilant and proactive to protect your heart and remain as healthy as possible throughout your life. 

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What to Expect When a Cardiovascular Doctor Orders a Holter Monitor

When a cardiovascular doctor recommends Holter monitoring, many patients are unfamiliar with the test.  Understanding what to expect can greatly reduce patient anxiety about this procedure.

What Exactly is a Holter Monitor?

A Holter monitor is a device patients wear to track heart rhythm.  Test results are important tools in helping cardiologists make diagnoses.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the test is noninvasive and painless.

This portable device is a type of electrocardiogram (ECG).  The American Heart Association indicates that it is roughly the size of a small camera and records heart activity for 24 or more hours.

Changes in an ECG can signal various cardiac conditions.  A Holter monitor records electrical impulses that coordinate heart contractions.  The information it collects shows:

  • How fast a heart is beating
  • A steady or an irregular beat rhythm
  • Timing and strength of impulses as they travel through the heart

Why Cardiologists Order It

A standard ECG in a doctor’s office only records heart activity at a single point in time.  Holter monitoring allows cardiologists to evaluate heartbeats over an extended period.

The data collected provides physicians with information such as:

  • Whether current medications are effective
  • Why a patient experiences symptoms like dizziness, feeling faint, or sensing a skipped heartbeat or a racing heart
  • Whether the heart is getting a sufficient supply of oxygen

Doctors order this test when symptoms such as low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and heart palpitations persist, but a resting ECG cannot detect a precise reason, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports.  Other common reasons include evaluating chest pain not duplicated with exercise testing, assessing the risk of future cardiac issues, monitoring heart rate after a heart attack, and determining whether an implanted pacemaker is effective.

The Monitoring Process

At a patient's appointment, a staff member will ask that jewelry and any other objects that could interfere with the test be removed.  The patient removes clothing from the waist up and changes into a gown so that a technician can affix electrodes to the chest.

It is sometimes necessary to shave to clip hair so that the electrodes will adhere properly.  The technician also attaches electrodes to the abdomen.  Wires connect them to the Holter device, which patients wear over the shoulder, around the waist, or clipped to a pocket or belt.  Since the device operates on batteries, it is important that patients carry extra batteries and know how to change them.  Patients cannot swim, shower, or bathe while wearing the monitor.

After getting instructions, a patient returns to normal activities unless the physician advises otherwise.  Monitoring requires keeping a patient diary of activities and symptoms noted that will be matched to the data collected.  At the end of the test, the individual returns to the practice to have electrodes removed.

 

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