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What is carotid artery disease?

The carotid arteries provide the brain with most of its blood supply and are located in the neck on either side of the windpipe. Carotid artery disease develops when one or both of these arteries become narrowed, or occluded, by an accumulation of a fatty substance called plaque. The build-up of plaque inside the artery walls is due to a process called atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries," and the resulting narrowing is called a stenosis. If plaque builds up to the point that it obstructs blood flow to the brain or particles of the plaque break off and travel to the arteries within the brain, a person can develop a stroke or a "mini" stroke (TIA). Carotid artery disease is the cause of more than one third of all strokes. Stroke, in turn, is the third highest cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Carotid artery disease is the hardening of the arteries in the neck.

Carotid artery disease is blockage in the carotid arteries, which predisposes a person to a stroke. 

Stroke neurologist Dr. Carolyn Brockington explains what carotid artery disease is. Watch Dr. Brockington's video for important tips and information about the health of your brain.

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Carotid artery disease is a type of peripheral vascular disease that affects the arteries that carry blood to your brain. It happens when one or more arteries are narrowed or blocked by plaque, a fatty substance that builds up inside artery walls. Carotid artery disease can increase your risk of stroke. It can also cause transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)—temporary changes in brain function that are sometimes called “mini-strokes.”

Dr. Susie Whitworth, PhD
Nursing Specialist

Carotid artery disease is caused by the build up of plaque in your carotid arteries. This plaque causes a decrease in the blood supply to your brain, which increases your risk for a stroke.

Carotid artery disease often does not exhibit symptoms until it has progressed to the point of causing a stroke.
If you experience symptoms of a stroke, which include: numbness on one side of the body, slurred speech, severe headache, decreased vision, and confusion, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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What Is Carotid Artery Disease?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.