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Six signs you may need a stroke screening

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of permanent disability in the U.S. While there are a number of factors at play when it comes to stroke, two blood vessels in your neck known as your carotid arteries may play a significant role in increasing your risk over time. But how do you know there might be a problem before it escalates? 

“Your carotid arteries supply oxygenated blood to the brain,” says Brian Kendrick, MD, a board-certified vascular surgeon on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia. “When that path becomes obstructed with plaque, a stroke can occur if action is not taken to prevent or reduce your risk.”

Because the build-up of plaque in your blood vessels is a gradual process, the symptoms of carotid artery disease may not be immediately noticeable. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your risks and take preventive action early, Dr. Kendrick says. Risk factors for carotid artery disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes or high blood sugar
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Age

“If you have one or more of these risk factors, an ultrasound screening of your carotid arteries can help to detect vascular disease in its early stages when preventive actions can be taken,” Dr. Kendrick says. “Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, maintaining a healthier weight, improving diet, exercising regularly and managing other chronic health conditions can help to prevent or slow the progression of the disease. For more advanced forms of carotid artery disease, vascular surgery to remove plaque from the arteries or to implant a stent may also be an option.”

One serious warning sign of carotid artery disease includes a risk for a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “ministroke,” which can serve as a predecessor for a future stroke. This attack causes temporary symptoms that include numbness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, slurred speech, blindness in one or both eyes and vertigo. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately.

Stroke is a medical emergency and a quick response can make all the difference. The American Stroke Association encourages “BE FAST” as an easy way to remember the sudden signs of a stroke and when to call 911:

  • Balance: Sudden loss of balance or dizziness
  • Eyes: Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Face: One side of the face is drooping
  • Arms: One arm is weak or numb
  • Speech: Sudden difficulty speaking
  • Time: Call 911 immediately

For more information about screening for carotid artery disease, visit Ask your doctor about your stroke risk and learn more about stroke symptoms and treatment at

An official headshot of Dr. KendrickBrian Kendrick, MD,

is a board-certified specialist in vascular surgery on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center. Dr. Kendrick is associated with The Surgical Clinic in Columbia.




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