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STORY OF HEART

Impending signs of Stroke

“Many people who experience transient symptoms (only brief period or less than 24 hours) of difficulty making words or thick tongue, crooked mouth, one side arm or leg weakness, or unsteady gait, may not pay attention that much. However these symptoms are indeed represent a warning sign of what serious condition is coming.  That condition is stroke.”

Stroke is a disease result from few conditions. One of them is the disease of the carotid arteries (the arteries that supply blood to your brain tissue). The carotid arteries are located on both side in front of the neck. Like any arterial atherosclerotic process in the body, there are cholesterol (and few other substances such as fibrin, cells and calcium) build up in the inner wall of the artery called plaque. Over time, these plaque gets larger making the arterial lumen narrower. When the lumen is critically narrowed or when there are blood clot formation on top of the plaque, the patient will develop symptoms as described earlier from inadequate blood supply to brain tissue. If the symptoms are brief, it is called transient ischemic attack (TIA). If the symptoms are more severe and last long the condition is called stroke.

Risk factors that associate with developing and advancing arterial atherosclerotic lesion are the same as in other part of the body such as the heart arteries. They are diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, obesity, lack or exercise and genetic (when they develop the disease at young age).

Fortunately there are effective treatment for carotid artery stenosis available today. This should be started with prevention by controlling those risk factors. There should be regular checkup particularly after pass 40 year old.

The carotid plaque that causes carotid stenosis can be removed by surgery called carotid endarterectomy or can be treated with balloon and stent to make the stenosis wider. The doctor will help choose the proper treatment program for you.

Dr. Kosin Thupawong, an American Board of Cardiothoracic Surgery certified who has been performing carotid endarterectomy for few decade in the US, is now a senior director of Bangkok Heart Hospital cardiothoracic surgery program.