The Role of the Carotid Artery

The Role of the Carotid Artery

You probably already know that your carotid artery is important, but you might not know why. Your carotid artery supplies oxygenated blood to your brain, and you have one on either side of your head. While simple things can protect your carotid artery, other simple things can put your carotid artery in danger, compromising your health. 

Our experienced vein specialists at Vascular Associates of San Diego in La Mesa, California are here to assist you in care and monitoring of your carotid artery. While we hope to keep you out of the office as much as possible, coming in from time to time for wellness tests can save you pain, time, and money later down the line. 

What is the carotid artery?

As blood fills the left atrium of the heart, it’s pushed through the aorta, and into the carotid artery, the pressure driving it up into your head. The carotid artery carries this freshly oxygenated blood through your neck, where the artery bifurcates, or splits, into the external carotid artery, and the internal carotid artery. 

Once the carotid artery reaches the jaw, it splits again to wrap around and into the skull, where it feeds the brain. The carotid artery splits in other places to feed your eyes, all of the muscles of the face, and your mouth and jaw. The carotid artery is responsible for keeping your brain supplied with the nutrients in your diet. Anything that ends up in your bloodstream eventually makes it to your brain through the carotid artery.

Healthy carotid arteries are free-flowing passageways that are guarded by their thick layers and surrounding muscles. However, genetic and environmental factors can compromise the health of your carotid artery. 

What can happen to my carotid artery?

If you have the misfortune of experiencing a violent attack, your attacker may place a knife to your throat, usually where your carotid artery is located. A cut to this part of your neck is not only extremely painful, but can be deadly in a matter of minutes. If this happens to you, try your best to keep the wound closed, and apply pressure as you call for help. 

Even with that possible threat, your diet, lifestyle, and family health history are far more likely to harm your carotid artery than a violent attacker. Diets that are high in sugar are prone to developing Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder where your blood sugars are completely unregulated. Diabetes and hypertension, another metabolic condition, raise the risk of harm for your carotid artery. 

Carotid artery disease is one such chronic condition that causes harm to this artery. Generally caused by a buildup of fatty deposits in the artery, carotid artery disease puts you in the direct path of a stroke, or a mini-stroke, as the normally free pathways begin to narrow and restrict the flow of blood. 

Several other diseases affect the health of your carotid artery, including:

While your genetics and personal health history deeply impact your proneness to any of these conditions, protecting your carotid artery is the best way to ensure to reduce your risk of developing these conditions. 

How do I take care of my carotid artery?

Caring for your heart and vascular system is easier than you may think. The preventative measures that you can take mirror the choices that lead to an overall healthy life. 

A balanced, nutrient-dense diet is the best starting place for your carotid artery care. Choose healthy carbohydrates that are filled with fiber and clean protein. Whole grains, including whole grain breads, brown rice, quinoa, and bular should have a place in your diet. These breads may contain nuts, another source of protein and several important minerals. 

Exercise is important to the overall health of every human. Getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, along with a healthy diet, reduces your risk of developing serious conditions that affect your entire body, including your carotid artery. Talk to your provider at Vascular Associates of San Diego about the right exercises for you. 

If you think you’ve had vascular issues, or are simply looking for the best vascular care, call or schedule an appointment with us today.

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