The carotid arteries extend from a large artery in your chest, called the aorta, to the brain inside your skull. There are two carotid arteries, one on either side of the neck. As a person ages, plaque can begin to build up within the arteries, causing them to narrow and stiffen. These plaque deposits are often irregular, so often blood clots can collect in these narrowed areas. This can narrow the space further or cause a complete blockage, resulting in decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which can cause a mini-stroke called a TIA, or a stroke.
Why Do I Have Carotid Artery Disease?
As someone ages, they are at higher risk of developing what is known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Basically plaque builds up on the inner walls of your arteries, when low-density lipoproteins, the bad type of cholesterol referred to as LDL, invades the artery wall. Muscle cells in the wall of the artery overgrow and fat and calcium starts to build up within these irregular spaces. Bleeding into the artery wall can also occur, resulting in formation of a clot that narrows the opening of the blood vessel even further.
There are many factors that can contribute to putting someone at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease:
- Age greater than 50
- Male gender
- Diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance
- Postmenopausal women
- Family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, carotid artery disease, or peripheral vascular disease
- Family history of stroke
- Coronary artery disease or heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Obesity or physical inactivity
- Smoking or use of tobacco products