I received a flyer in the mail last week about a stroke/carotid artery screening (plus several other heart tests) for the low price of $139. I didn’t pay too much attention to it until two patients brought in the same exact flyer wanting to know if they should do it and get the screening.
Your carotid arteries are the main blood supplier to your brain, head, and neck and are therefore very important to your well-being! Most people recognize the carotid arteries as the place you take your pulse on your neck – just under the curve in your jaw. Over time, these arteries can develop atherosclerosis where they become narrowed by plaques of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue. This decreases blood supply and oxygen to your brain.
If the artery becomes completely blocked, or if a piece of the plaque breaks off and floats up into your brain, you are at serious risk for a stroke.
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death in Americans and the leading cause of adult disability. They also report that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable!
A stroke occurs when an artery or vessel is blocked (ie. from plaque) which stops blood supply to an area of the brain. This causes brain cell death and brain damage. The damage outcome depends on which area of the brain is affected such as the area for speech or for walking.
There may be earlier signs that your carotid arteries are narrowing before having a stroke. For example, you may lose vision in one eye, the ability to control the movement in one arm or leg, the ability to control speech, or you may feel weak/numb/tingling on one side of your body. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
The test to check your carotid arteries involves the use of an ultrasound in order to assess blood flow through the vessels. It is a quick, painless, non-invasive test where a technician holds the ultrasound probe to your neck and watches your blood movement on a screen. If things are flowing freely and smoothly, you are at little risk.