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Heart Disease Health Center

Carotid Artery Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatment

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How Is Carotid Artery Disease Diagnosed? continued...

Your doctor may also use a test to diagnose carotid artery disease. Possible tests include the following:

  • Carotid ultrasound (standard or Doppler). This noninvasive, painless screening test uses high-frequency sound waves to view the carotid arteries. It looks for plaques and blood clots and determines whether the arteries are narrowed or blocked. A Doppler ultrasound shows the movement of blood through the blood vessels. Ultrasound imaging does not use X-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). This imaging technique uses a powerful magnet to gather accurate information about the brain and arteries. Then a computer uses this information to generate high-resolution images. An MRA can often detect even small strokes in the brain.
  • Computerized tomography angiography (CTA). More detailed than an X-ray, a CT uses X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images of the carotid arteries. Images of the brain can be collected as well. With this imaging test, the scan may reveal areas of damage on the brain. The CT scan uses a low level of radiation.
  • Cerebral angiography (carotid angiogram). This procedure is considered the gold standard for imaging the carotid arteries. It is an invasive procedure that lets a doctor see blood flow through the carotid arteries in real time. Cerebral angiography allows the doctor to see narrowing or blockages on a live X-ray screen as contrast dye is injected in the carotid arteries. This procedure provides the best information. It does carry a small risk of serious complications.

 

What’s the Treatment for Carotid Artery Disease?

To effectively treat carotid artery disease, doctors recommend the following:

  • Following recommended lifestyle habits
  • Taking medications as prescribed
  • Considering a procedure to improve blood flow, if your doctor believes it could help reduce your risk of future stroke

 

What Are the Recommended Lifestyle Changes for Carotid Artery Disease?

To keep carotid artery disease from progressing, the following lifestyle changes are recommended:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Control high blood pressure (optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg).
  • Control diabetes.
  • Have regular checkups with your doctor.
  • Have your doctor check your cholesterol and get treatment, if necessary.
  • Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and salt.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women, 2 for men.

 

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