Carotid Stenosis: Care Instructions

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Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Your Care Instructions

Carotid stenosis is narrowing of one or both of the carotid arteries. These arteries take blood from the heart to the brain. There is one on each side of the neck.

A substance called plaque builds up inside an artery. This makes it too narrow. Plaque comes from damage to the artery over time. This damage may be caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. Sometimes plaque can break loose from the carotid artery and move to the brain. This can cause a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

The goal of treatment is to lower your risk of having a stroke or TIA. You can lower your risk by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking medicine. Sometimes a surgery or procedure is done.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may take medicine to lower your blood pressure, to lower your cholesterol, or to prevent blood clots.
  • If you take a blood thinner, such as aspirin, be sure to get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
  • Do not smoke. People who smoke have a higher chance of stroke than those who quit. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and salt. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods high in fibre.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program. Regular exercise lowers your chance of stroke.
  • Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a day for men and 2 drinks a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
  • Work with your doctor to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions that increase your chance of a stroke. A healthy diet, exercise, weight loss (if needed), and medicines can help.
  • Avoid colds and flu. Get the flu vaccine every year.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on onlyone side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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