Baby boomers and seniors can take steps to reduce their chances of having a stroke, the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Strokes occur in 700,000 Americans each year, with nearly 157,000 dying annually from this disorder. In addition, stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in older people.
One of the most important and preventable causes of strokes is carotid artery disease, a condition that leads to a narrowing of the passageway of the arteries in the neck and causes them to become stiff and obstructed. Carotid artery disease results when the carotid arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your brain become too narrow or obstructed and limit the blood flow to the brain.
Patients approaching 55 years-of-age and older, are encouraged to discuss how to control the following risk factors for carotid artery disease with their primary care physician:
· Maintain healthy blood pressure
· Stop smoking
· Control diabetes
· Manage cholesterol levels
· Maintain a healthy weight
· Exercise regularly
In addition to these health tips those, particularly with a history of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, smoking, high cholesterol, or known cardiovascular disease, should ask their primary care physician to test for carotid artery disease.
The warning signs of stroke can be misunderstood. People experiencing a stroke have these warning signs:
· Weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body
· Inability to control movement of a body part
· Loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
· Inability to speak clearly
· Difficulty talking or comprehending what others are saying
· Dizziness or confusion.Typically with age, the carotid arteries build up plaque, a sticky substance made up mostly of fat and cholesterol. Strokes result from either obstruction of blood flow to the brain by the plaque; sudden clotting off of the carotid artery; or when bits of plaque and clots break off from the plaque and flow to the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies every 3 minutes.