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High Cholesterol Level - Can It Cause Carotid Disease?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Kodeeswaran Marappan 90% (72 ratings)
MCh, MBBS, MRCS (UK)
Neurosurgeon, Chennai  •  19 years experience
High Cholesterol Level - Can It Cause Carotid Disease?

Carotid artery disease occurs when an oily, waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the carotid arteries. These are arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your brain, face, scalp, and neck.
Carotid artery disease is very serious as it can cause a brain stroke. It, in fact, starts with damage to the inner layer of the carotid artery. To stem this damage your body starts a healing process and this leads to a build up of plaque at the point where the artery is damaged.

When this plaque ruptures, platelets are rushed in and these create an obstruction to the flow of blood to the brain. When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, which happens in carotid disease, the brain cells begin to die causing a stroke. This neural death impairs the parts of the body that these brain cells control. So, you can get paralyzed, become speech or vision impaired, have long –term effects like paralysis or even die due to a stroke.

Causes of carotid disease

  1. Smoking
  2. High cholesterol levels
  3. High blood pressure
  4. High levels of sugar in the blood due to diabetes

What’s even more worrisome is that carotid artery disease may not cause any signs or symptoms until the carotid arteries are severely narrowed or blocked. And what usually happens is that a stroke becomes the first sign of the disease.

How scary is that?
So, the next question that comes to the mind is - Can this condition be cured? Let’s learn more about management and prevention of the same-

Prevention
Lifestyle changes are key. Since hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes, sedentary lifestyles and imbibing too much fat are all risk factors, taking care of them minimizes the risk of carotid disease and strokes. Heart healthy lifestyle changes that include moderate exercise are a great way to prevent carotid disease.


Treatments
Treatments for carotid artery disease include:

Medicines: Sometimes lifestyle changes do not stem the rot. You need medicinal help. Doctors usually prescribe statin medications to control your cholesterol levels. These lower the bad cholesterol that can narrow your carotid arteries and cause brain strokes and damage. Statins are usually prescribed for people who have:

  • Heart disease
  • Those who’ve had a stroke
  • Diabetes
  • High LDL or bad cholesterol levels

Medicines like Aspirin and Clopidogrel to prevent blood clots are the mainstay treatment if you suffer from carotid disease. They prevent platelets from clumping together inside your carotid arteries and forming blood clots. Apart from these, your doctor may also medicate you for conditions that can damage your carotid arteries and cause strokes. These medicines are for lowering your BP, blood sugar levels, preventing the formation of blood clots anywhere in your body including inside your heart, and preventing and reducing inflammation.

Medical Procedures
These are used to open narrowed or blocked carotid arteries.
The two common procedures are:
Carotid endarterectomy: It’s mainly for people whose carotid arteries are blocked 50 percent or more. In this, the inner lining of the carotid artery that is blocking blood flow is removed.
Carotid artery angioplasty and stenting: Here, doctors use a procedure called angioplasty to widen the blocked carotid arteries and restore blood flow to the brain. A stent is inserted into your carotid artery to broaden the lumen.

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