What is Carotid Artery Disease?

Carotid artery disease occurs when one or both of the carotid arteries are narrowed or blocked with a waxy substance called plaque. When the body is functioning optimally, the carotid arteries carry oxygenated blood to the head and brain. There are two carotid arteries — one on either side of the neck — and those arteries are made up of both internal and external arteries. The internal arteries take oxygenated blood to the brain, while the external arteries move oxygen-rich blood to the neck, face and scalp.

However, aging and a number of other factors can cause plaque to build up in those arteries, cutting off that essential blood flow. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances that can accumulate and cause the arteries to narrow, a condition known as carotid stenosis.

Blocked carotid arteries can have serious complications. In fact, carotid artery disease is a significant cause of stroke among Americans. Stroke can also occur if a blood clot forms within the carotid arteries, which can happen if plaque buildup cracks or ruptures.

What Causes Carotid Artery Disease?

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