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What Is The Life Expectancy With a Blocked Carotid Artery And The Benefits of Early Screening For Seniors

The life expectancy with a blocked carotid artery, no matter the cause, is a potentially lethal condition and should be assessed and treated immediately.

However, advanced medical technologies allow for adults to screen for these circulatory blockages early before a serious medical issue occurs.

This can be the case for carotid artery disease.

In this article, we will provide a review of carotid artery disease, risk factors, the life expectancy with a blocked carotid artery, prevention measures, and available screening tools to detect symptoms early. 

What is Carotid Artery Disease?

The carotid artery is a major blood vessel that delivers blood to your brain and head. Carotid artery disease occurs when fatty deposits, also referred to as plaques, block blood flow.

As a result, the blood supply is reduced or completely cut off from the brain, causing brain tissue to be deprived of oxygen.

The outcome is generally a stroke, which can either be fatal or cause major physical and cognitive disability.

Symptoms of carotid artery disease often develop slowly over several years. In the early stages, reduced blood flow can cause TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), otherwise known as mini strokes.

Symptoms of A TIA Or Stroke May Include The Following:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body or in the face
  • Increased frequency in headaches
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble seeing

Unfortunately, these symptoms could explain any number of other medical conditions, which is why carotid artery disease can be so difficult to identify early on.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke, or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is damage to brain tissue resulting from oxygen deprivation.

This can occur when there’s a blockage in a major artery leading to the brain, or when an artery ruptures (i.e. hemorrhagic stroke).

A stroke can result in death or in lifelong physical and cognitive limitations including:

  • Paralysis (usually one side of the body)
  • Visual loss or disturbances
  • Aphasia (inability to communicate or comprehend language)
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of or reduced hearing
  • Balance and coordination deficits
  • Muscle weakness
  • Personality and emotional changes

A stroke can results in months, or even years, worth of rehabilitation and can completely alter someone’s ability to participate in the activities they love or need to do on a daily basis. 

Who is At Risk For Developing Carotid Artery Disease and What is the Life Expectancy With a Blocked Carotid Artery?

Men and women tend to be at greater risk for developing carotid artery disease if they are over the age of 50, and their risk only increases as they age. Other risk factors may include:

  • Poor diet.
  • Sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise.
  • Family history of atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (CAD), or peripheral arterial disease.
  • History of circulatory issues or previous stroke.

In many ways, plaque build-up in the carotid artery is a natural part of the aging process, but it may be sped up by certain lifestyle choices.

Your life expectancy with a blocked carotid artery will depend on how much blockage is in the artery and what your primary physician recommends for treatment. Some physicians may consider medication or surgical intervention like a carotid endarterectomy.

Are There Ways to Prevent Carotid Artery Disease?

Although not all cases of carotid artery disease are preventable, there are ways to reduce your chances of developing the disease and decreasing your risk for stroke. Prevention measures may include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Reduce fatty food intake
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Fill your diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Limit or avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce your sodium intake
  • Attend routine physician checkups
  • Attend prevention screenings

What is Carotid Artery Disease Screening?

Carotid artery disease screening is a non-invasive assessment that utilizes ultrasound technology to scan your carotid artery for abnormalities.

The color-flow ultrasound creates a series of images of the artery while simultaneously measuring its blood flow.

This test is completely painless and patients do not have to remove any clothing. The technician applies warm ultrasound gel to the skin which helps the applicator slide across the tissue and improve the clarity of the ultrasound images.

Once your assessment is complete, the images are sent over to your primary physician for review.

The Benefits of Early Carotid Artery Disease Screening.

Since symptoms of carotid artery disease are difficult to detect in the early stages and can be easily mistaken for other medical conditions.

It’s essential for men and women to consider participating in carotid artery disease screening to prevent blood clots and stroke.

Here are just a few benefits of getting early carotid artery disease screening:

  • Ease of mind
  • Prevention of deadly and costly medical issues
  • Early and accurate treatment
  • Increased quality of life 

What Happens if My Test Results Reveal Positive Symptoms?

Once your ultrasound results have been reviewed by your primary physician, you may be asked to schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss your results.

If the ultrasound detected no blockages or plaque build-up, then this is great news and should put you at ease.

However, the doctor may still have some recommendations if you or your family have a history of circulatory diseases.

If the ultrasound scans detected the presence of plaque in your artery, then your physician will provide you with your available treatment options. Depending on the severity of the blockage, he may suggest any of the following:

  • Lifestyle or dietary changes.
  • Blood pressure or cholesterol medication.
  • Blood thinners.
  • Surgery for severe blockages.

If you have been officially diagnosed with carotid artery disease, expect to be attending follow-up appointments to monitor your symptoms and to modify your treatment plan as needed.


Carotid artery disease results in any plaque build-up or blockage found in the carotid artery, a major blood vessel responsible for carrying oxygen-filled blood to the brain and head.

If the brain is deprived of oxygen, even for a few seconds, this could result in damage to the tissue including a stroke.

Carotid artery disease symptoms may be difficult to detect in their early stages and can be mistaken for other medical conditions.

Early screening via the use of color-flow ultrasound can scan for blockages and plaque build-up, resulting in an accurate diagnosis and a proper treatment plan.

If you or a loved one have a genetic disposition to arterial disease, consider consulting with your physician and participating in a carotid artery disease screening today.

About Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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