Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is the leading cause of disability in adults. Each year over 800,000 people suffer from a stroke, and someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. The good news, is that 80% of strokes can be prevented. The symptoms of a stroke include:
1. Feeling weakness or numbness on one side of your body, especially in an arm or leg
2. Being unable to control the movement on one side of the body
3. Droopiness of one side of the face
4. Having difficulty speaking
5. Losing vision partially in one eye
There are two types of stroke—ischemic and hemorrhagic. Hemorrhagic strokes are most commonly caused by hypertension. Less commonly, they can be caused by ruptured aneurysms or tumors in the brain. Ischemic strokes are caused by blockage of an artery in the brain. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot in an artery in the brain. This can be the result of a clot travelling from the heart or artery in the neck (the carotid) or from a clot inside a vessel in the brain.
Carotid artery disease is responsible for about 30% of all strokes and these can all be prevented. The carotid arteries are the main arteries in your neck that supply oxygen and nutrients to your brain. These arteries are susceptible to getting “clogged” with plaque- fatty deposits. The risk factors for carotid artery disease are hypertension, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. Carotid disease is more common as you age, and is found in about 10% over the age of 80. Carotid disease is often asymptomatic, but unfortunately the first symptom can be a stroke or TIA. A TIA is a mini-stroke where the symptoms last for less than 24 hours.
Important facts to keep in mind about these mini-strokes include:
● 40 percent of people who have a TIA will have an actual stroke
● Nearly half of all strokes occur within the first few days after a TIA
● Symptoms for TIA are the same as for a stroke
Carotid artery disease can easily be diagnosed with a simple, noninvasive and painless ultrasound. If you have had any of the above symptoms, speak to your doctor about getting an ultrasound. At South Bay Vascular Center, we offer screening ultrasounds, for those who are worried about carotid artery disease and who have risk factors or a family history of stroke for a nominal fee. This test can be done in just 15 minutes, and results will be sent to you or to your family physician.