How can carotid artery disease be prevented?

Stroke neurologist Dr. Carolyn Brockington discusses whether or not carotid artery disease can be prevented. Watch Dr. Brockington's video for important tips and information about the health of your brain.

Several factors increase the risk of developing carotid artery disease, including:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history

A healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet, normal body weight, exercise and low cholesterol level will greatly reduce your chances of blocked arteries and stroke. If you have a family history of carotid artery disease or are at risk for stroke, examinations by your physician, a radiologist or your ophthalmologist can help detect dysfunction in the carotid arteries.

Examinations may include:

  • Ultrasound, to hear and measure blood flow through the arteries
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), which produces electronic images of the arteries
  • Computerized tomography angiogram (CTA), which involves injecting a special dye into the bloodstream to illuminate the arteries
  • Dilation (widening) of the pupil with eyedrops to examine the eye for blocked blood vessels
Piedmont Heart Institute

Taking action to control your risk factors can help prevent or delay carotid artery disease and stroke. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get carotid artery disease.
Making lifestyle changes and taking prescribed medicines are important steps.

Know your family history of health problems related to carotid artery disease. If you or someone in your family has this disease, be sure to tell your doctor. Also, let your doctor know if you smoke.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

People whose blockages are mild to moderate can often manage their disease by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and by working with their doctors to take care of related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Doctors will monitor the disease and initiate other treatments if the disease begins to progress. They may also prescribe blood-thinning drugs or other medications.