• Lifestyle Changes for People with Carotid Artery Disease

     
     
     
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    5/12/2014

    Once blood flow has been restored, your work-and that of your care team-is not over. Procedures such as carotid angioplasty and stenting or endarterectomy can address serious blockages in the arteries, but they do not control other risk factors or remove plaque build-up throughout all arteries in the body. That's when the focus of treatment turns from procedures to medication and lifestyle changes.

    Lifestyle changes can be difficult to make, but when it comes to carotid artery disease, doing so is well worth the effort. Making positive changes in diet, exercise, and outlook can have measurable effects on risk factors such as plaque buildup on artery walls, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight. Reductions in any of these risk factors can help control carotid artery disease and lower the risk of stroke. If you have already had a stroke or a procedure such as carotid artery angioplasty and stenting or a carotid endarterectomy, lifestyle changes can help with your recovery and prevention of future problems.

    If you have been diagnosed with carotid artery disease, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of new information you are receiving. The good news is that the lifestyle changes that are good for carotid artery disease are the same recommendations for overall wellness. While changing habits can be hard, incremental lifestyle changes such as the ones listed below can reap big rewards:

    Stop smoking. The toxins in cigarette smoke damage artery walls throughout the body, including the carotid arteries. This damage leads directly to atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries." Quitting smoking can slow the progression of carotid artery disease. Learn about managing your blood pressure…

    Eat a healthier diet. A diet low in saturated fats can reduce cholesterol build-up and plaque formation in the carotid arteries. A healthier diet can also assist with controlling other risk factors for carotid artery disease, such as obesity and high blood pressure. Click here to learn more about heart-healthy nutrition...

    Drink alcohol only in moderation. Alcohol consumption is a contributor to two of the risk factors for carotid artery disease: high blood pressure and obesity. For good overall health, including healthy carotid arteries, men should limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks a day and women should limit themselves to 1 drink per day.

    Exercise. Doing good for your carotid arteries does not require becoming a triathlete.  The path to improved wellness can be as simple as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. This can be walking, biking, doing house or lawn work or whatever gets you moving. You and your physician can discuss what level of exercise might be both suitable and enjoyable for you. Click here for ideas on getting more physically active...

    Lose weight. Weight gain can substantially elevate your risk of stroke. Work with your physician on a plan to gradually decrease weight until your body mass index (BMI) is under 25. Losing weight can help control blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

    Reduce stress. A diagnosis of carotid artery disease can be stressful, but that stress response can do further harm to your arteries. Stress contributes to high blood pressure and to atherosclerosis. Your plan for prevention or recovery should include measures to reduce stress. Your care team can help you learn stress-busting techniques such as exercise or meditation. Learn more about how to minimize the impact of stress on your health…