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Stroke … Did You Know?

May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly 6 million die, and another 5 million are left permanently disabled. While it is widely known that stroke is caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol , smoking, obesity and diabetes, there is a lesser-known condition screened for in the fight against stroke: carotid artery disease (CAD). Carotid Artery Disease is estimated to be the source of stroke in up to a third of stroke cases. CAD is a form of atherosclerosis, or build-up of plaque in one or both of the neck’s main arteries. The carotid arteries are vital as they feed oxygen rich blood to the brain. When plaque builds up in the carotid arteries, they begin to narrow and slow down the flow of blood, potentially causing a stroke if blood flow stops or plaque fragments travel to the brain.
CAD diagnosis can be made by your physician with a screening based on risk factors like high blood pressures, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Blockages can also be found when a physician hears a sound through a stethoscope placed on the neck. If someone is having stroke-like symptoms, they should seek help immediately.

What tests may be performed?

Carotid artery ultrasound uses sound waves to produce an image of the carotid arteries on an ultrasound screen. This non-invasive test is painless, does not require the use of needles, dye or X-ray. Angiography uses X-rays to take a picture inside the carotid artery. Dye is injected through a small tube , allowing physicians to see if there is any narrowing of the arteries.

How is CAD treated?

A Carotid Endarterectomy (CEA) is an open surgical procedure that removes plaque from inside the carotid artery to restore the blood flow to the brain. This is the most common way patients are treated for this disease process. Vascular surgeons are the doctors that decide which treatment is best for individual patients.
The Transfemoral Carotid Artery Stenting is a minimally invasive procedure, with the physician working through a tube inserted into the artery in the upper thigh. A small filter is placed beyond the disease area of the carotid to help limit fragments of plaque from traveling toward the brain. A metal-mesh tube, called a stent is placed, this expands inside the artery to increase the blood flow to the brain and stabilize the plaque.
TransCarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) is a NEW innovative technology to treat patients who are at risk for open surgery. The entire procedure is performed through a small incision in the neck. A tube is inserted into the carotid artery, directing blood flow away from the brain to protect from debris reaching the brain and possibly causing a stroke. A stent is then implanted to the carotid artery to stabilize the plaque and prevent stroke. Recovery from this procedure is quicker, less painful and leaves the patient with smaller scars.

F.A.S.T – It’s Not Just a Speed

Your vascular health can play a big role in the potential of someone suffering from the effects of a stroke.
A stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply to the brain. Most are caused by blockages in the arteries leading to the brain.
As May is Stroke Awareness Month, it is time to remember the potential signs of stroke. Just remember F.A.S.T.
F – Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or does it feel numb?
A – Arm Weakness – If one arm is weak or numb, try raising both arms. One arm may drift downward.
S – Speech – Slurred speech or simply unable to speak.
T – Time to Call 9-1-1 – If a person shows these symptoms, it is time to call 9-1-1 and go to the hospital immediately, even if the symptoms go away.
A diagnostic ultrasound of the carotid artery can help determine warning signs of stroke. If you are concerned, talk to your primary care provider.

Is a Second Stroke In Your Future?

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

Even after surviving a stroke, it is possible to have another. Twenty three percent of stroke sufferers will experience a second.
The American Heart Association offers some tips that may have a big impact in reducing the risk. Up to 80 percent of second clot-related strokes can be preventable.

Here are eight ways to help prevent a second stroke:

  1. Monitor your blood pressure.
  2. Control your cholesterol.
  3. Keep your blood sugar down.
  4. Be active.
  5. Make better food choices.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight.
  7. Refrain from smoking.
  8. Talk to your doctor about aspirin or other medications.
Ultimately it depends on the patient to help reduce the risks. Consulting with your physician to help find the best plan of action is always the best idea.