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Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery: Do you Have these Symptoms?

Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery: Do you Have these Symptoms?

Apr 1, 2024 | Blog

Carotid arteries are the blood vessels in the body that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face. You can find them on each side of your neck. When a carotid artery is blocked, it reduces the flow of blood to the brain, which could potentially lead to a stroke and other serious health issues.

Studies have shown that without treatment, the risk of stroke can be as high as 26% per year for those with symptomatic severe carotid artery stenosis, but you can lower the risk significantly with timely intervention.

At CACVI, we offer specialized procedures such as coronary artery stenting procedure and complex coronary intervention, that help treat blocked arteries and can improve blood flow to the heart and brain. 

With over thirty years of practice specializing in complex coronary diseases, you can trust us with your health! Contact us now for a consultation with our board-certified endovascular surgeons.

In this blog, we will talk about blocked carotid arteries, their impact on health, and much more.

What is the Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery with Symptoms?

What is the Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery with Symptoms?

The risk of having a stroke in patients over the age of 35 with this condition is notably higher than that of the average healthy individual, emphasizing the serious impact of this condition on health and life expectancy.

According to studies by the National Institutes of Health, patients over the age of 35 with an unhealthy lifestyle diagnosed with carotid artery disease have a 23% chance of having a stroke over a five-year period, while healthier individuals show a much lower risk (of having a stroke) at 15%.

It’s challenging to tell exactly how much a blocked carotid artery with symptoms can shorten your lifespan as it depends on the interplay of several factors like family history, medical history, lifestyle habits, etc. The key to managing this condition and improving life expectancy lies in early detection, appropriate treatment, and managing overall cardiovascular risk factors.

What are the Early Symptoms of a Blocked Carotid Artery in your Neck?

What are the Early Symptoms of a Blocked Carotid Artery in your Neck?

Carotid artery disease is a condition where the arteries that supply blood to the brain become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup. This can significantly affect blood flow, leading to potentially serious health issues, including strokes. 

Some early warning signs of carotid artery disease may include: 

  • Transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke)
  • Sudden dizziness 
  • Sudden numbness 
  • Bruits 
  • Severe headache with no known cause, etc. 

Key risk factors for this condition are obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, family history, age, etc. Gender is also a risk factor as men are generally more prone to this disease than women. However, the risk for women increases after menopause.

Major Warning Signs of Blocked Carotid Artery

Major Warning Signs of Blocked Carotid Artery

The major warning signs of a blocked carotid artery are transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and strokes. A transient ischemic attack, often called a mini-stroke, is a brief warning that a stroke may be imminent. Other symptoms that mirror those of a stroke such as difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, sudden numbness and weakness, trouble speaking, etc. may also occur. A TIA is a sign that a part of the brain is not getting enough blood flow. 

Strokes, on the other hand, involve a longer period of interrupted blood supply to the brain. Thus, leading to more permanent damage to brain tissue. The symptoms are similar to those of a TIA but last longer and can result in lasting brain damage, disability, or even death.

Early detection is important when it comes to blocked carotid arteries. This detection starts with a physical examination. Here, a doctor may listen to the carotid arteries with a stethoscope for a whooshing sound known as a bruit. This sound can indicate turbulent blood flow, suggesting narrowing or blockage.

You may also have to undergo some imaging tests during the diagnosis period. MRI, in particular, can assess the brain for evidence of previous strokes or TIAs that may have gone unnoticed. You can also undergo a carotid ultrasound to detect plaque buildup and measure blood flow velocity. 

A patient’s medical history is also important during the medical evaluation and diagnosis period. The doctor would take note of previous instances of TIAs, strokes, diabetes mellitus, etc. They would also ask questions on lifestyle habits like smoking. This information, combined with physical exam findings and imaging results, helps form a comprehensive view of the patient’s risk factors and cardiovascular health.

Can you Unblock a Carotid Artery Without Surgery?

Unfortunately, you cannot clear the plaques in a carotid artery without surgery as a medical treatment. Once you’ve been diagnosed with carotid artery disease, you have to undergo surgery.

Surgical interventions

Surgical interventions

Surgical interventions for carotid artery disease are primarily carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and carotid artery stenting. They aim to prevent strokes in patients with significant carotid stenosis or blockages. 

Carotid endarterectomy is a complex coronary intervention that aims to remove plaque formation from the carotid arteries. This operation is typically recommended for patients with significant carotid artery stenosis (usually more than 70% blockage). 

For this process, the surgeon performing the vascular surgery makes an incision along the front of the neck. Then, the surgeon goes ahead to open the affected carotid artery and removes the plaque that is narrowing the artery. In addition, the artery is repaired, often with a patch, to allow for improved blood flow to the brain. 

On the other hand, carotid artery stenting is a less invasive procedure compared to carotid endarterectomy. It is often performed on patients who may not be ideal candidates for surgery due to other medical conditions or those with carotid artery stenosis that is difficult to access surgically. 

During this coronary artery stenting procedure, a catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and guided to the carotid artery. A balloon is then inflated to open the narrowed area, and a stent (a small wire mesh tube) is placed to keep the artery open.

Lifestyle Modifications and Their Impact

Lifestyle Modifications and Their Impact

In managing carotid artery disease, making certain HEALTHY lifestyle modifications is usually necessary. One major aspect of life that needs changes would be diet and nutrition. A heart-healthy diet can help reduce the progression of plaque buildup in the carotid arteries and improve blood flow. 

It is helpful to consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Reducing the intake of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium can help manage blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of further artery blockage. Such dietary changes are endorsed by the American Stroke Association as effective measures for reducing stroke risks. 

If you usually do not engage in physical activities, it’s time to add exercises to your routine. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, lowers blood pressure, and improves overall cardiovascular health. Activities such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming for at least 30 minutes most days of the week are helpful.

Smoking is a major risk factor for the development of carotid artery disease. It damages blood vessels, increases plaque buildup, raises blood pressure, and reduces the amount of oxygen that blood can carry to your brain cells. Giving up smoking can halt the progression of vascular disease, improve the effectiveness of treatments like stenting and endarterectomy, and significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke.

Medical Management Strategies

Medical Management Strategies

Medical management strategies for carotid artery disease focus on controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and using antiplatelet therapy to manage risk factors and improve overall vascular health. Each of these strategies directly impacts the life expectancy and quality of life of individuals with carotid artery stenosis, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of carotid artery disease. It can accelerate atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the arteries, including those leading to the brain. Controlling blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medication can reduce the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular events. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers are commonly prescribed for hypertension management.

High levels of cholesterol, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol also contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries. Cholesterol-lowering medications, particularly statins, are effective in reducing LDL cholesterol levels and stabilizing plaque, which can prevent it from rupturing and causing a stroke. Statins have been shown to reduce the risk of strokes and other cardiovascular events in patients with carotid artery disease by reducing blood vessel blockage and inflammation.

Antiplatelet medications, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, are also helpful in preventing the formation of blood clots. For patients who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke and those who have undergone procedures like carotid endarterectomy or carotid artery stenting, antiplatelet therapy is crucial for preventing future stroke.

Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery and Quality of Life

Life Expectancy with Blocked Carotid Artery and Quality of Life

The life expectancy for individuals with blocked carotid arteries and symptoms can be influenced by a range of factors like the severity of the blockage, overall health, comorbid conditions, and adherence to treatment and lifestyle modifications. The severity of the blockage, especially when it reaches 70% to 90%, significantly increases the risk of future stroke, which can impact life expectancy and quality of life. 

If you have a blocked carotid artery, you should avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium. You should also avoid red meat, full-fat dairy products, fried foods, fast foods, etc. 

Can I fly with blocked arteries? Yes, you can. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before flying.

Can You Exercise with a Blocked Carotid Artery?

Yes, you can exercise with a blocked carotid artery. However, you should consult with your healthcare provider on the physical activities to do.  

Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and reduce cardiovascular risk factors, contributing to a healthier vascular system. They also help to increase stamina and energy levels. Furthermore, exercise is helpful to mental health. It reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Non-Invasive Carotid Artery Surgery and Diagnosis

Some non-invasive carotid artery diagnosis methods include carotid ultrasound, CT angiography, and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). These help visualize the extent of blockage and blood flow in the carotid arteries without the need for surgical intervention. 

At CACVI, we offer comprehensive cardiac evaluations, including state-of-the-art diagnostic procedures for detecting carotid artery disease and other cardiovascular conditions. Our goal is to ensure that we deliver clinical expertise with care and empathy. 

If you or someone you know experiences symptoms indicative of carotid artery disease, reach out to us for a cardiac evaluation and diagnosis.

CACVI’s Complex Coronary Interventions Specialist

Dr. Vasim Lala is an expert in complex coronary interventions and other areas. His expertise extends to a broad spectrum of chronic heart and vascular medical conditions.

In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Lala is deeply involved in research related to cardiovascular disease. He has contributed to the medical community through multiple publications, including blogs for the American College of Cardiology and TCT MD.


If you were told you need an amputation, get a second opinion! We are board certified consultants in endovascular interventions committed to improving the quality of your life and the lives of those you love!

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