Your arteries are responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Your carotid arteries are two main arteries that carry blood from your heart, up through your neck, to your brain. Healthy carotid arteries are smooth and unobstructed, allowing blood to flow freely to the brain and provide oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients that your brain cells need. Typically, with age, the carotid arteries build up plaque, a sticky substance made up mostly of fat and cholesterol. Plaque narrows the passageway within the arteries and causes them to become stiff. Carotid artery disease results when sufficient amount of plaque is built up, and may lead to debilitating stroke.
Strokes result either from obstruction of blood flow to the brain by the plaque or when bits of plaque and clots break off from the plaque and flow to the brain. If left untreated, carotid artery disease may lead to stroke, where lack of oxygen and other essential nutrients cause damage to the brain. Depending on its severity, a stroke can be fatal. In fact, strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of permanent disability in older adults. By treating the carotid plaque, we can eliminate a significant risk factor of stroke.