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Duplex test, plaque build up, block in blood vessels, atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke risk

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2003
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Hi, may I answer your health queries right now ? Please type your query here... Two years ago, my cardiologist gave me a (duplex) test that showed no plaque buildup in the left carotid & 20 % on the right. Recently, he gave me another that showed 60 - 79% on left and 40% on right. I am 64 years old, female, not overweight, with established heart disease. I am appalled at the pace at which this condition has changed. What is the typical pace at which plaque builds in the carotid and, at the rate I'm going, can I expect the left carotid to be blocked significantly more in even a year?
Wed, 16 May 2012 in Stroke
Answered by Dr. Deepak Anvekar 5 hours later

Blockage in the major blood vessels is mostly due to atherosclerosis.

Everyone starts to develop some amount of atherosclerosis as they grow older. In some people, the condition can cause complications such as a heart attack or stroke.

Atherosclerosis is a common disorder that specifically affects the medium and large arteries. It occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques.

Eventually, the plaques can make the artery narrow and less flexible, making it harder for blood to flow.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include: Diabetes ; Heavy alcohol use ; High blood pressure ; High blood cholesterol levels ; High-fat diet ; Increasing age ; Obesity ; Personal or family history of heart disease and Smoking

From the history provided you have a few risk factors for progression of atherosclerosis. Taking appropriate measures as suggested below to control them would be helpful.

Lifestyle and dietary changes :
1. Avoid fatty foods. Eat well-balanced meals that are low in fat and cholesterol. Include several daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Adding fish to your diet at least twice a week may be helpful. However, do not eat fried fish.

2. Exercise regularly for 30 minutes a day if you are not overweight, and for 60 - 90 minutes a day if you are overweight.

3. Proper control of your blood pressure and blood cholesterol is important.
Goal - maintain blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg
Adults should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.
LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels below 130-160 mg/dL.

In addition, medications like aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) to help prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries can be prescribed by your doctor.

Adequate and regular titration of your cholesterol medications, and levothyroxine (for hypothyroidism) is also needed.

Hope I have answered your query.

I will be available to answer your follow up queries.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Duplex test, plaque build up, block in blood vessels, atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke risk 42 hours later
Thank you for your response. I understand the information you provided. I want to know whether or not it is common for the plaque build up to occur so rapidly (0 - 50% in two years), and at what rate can I expect the blockage to occur even though I follow healthy practices?
Answered by Dr. Deepak Anvekar 3 hours later

Yes, it is very common for such plaques to develop at a faster rate, especially when you have risk factors like hypertension and high cholesterol and if they are uncontrolled.

At the rate it is progressing, if treatment and steps are not taken to control them, it is likely to result in complications like strokes within a period of 2 -3 years.

If proper medications and steps are undertaken, and the risk factors controlled, then such complications can be avoided and the risk reduced by 60% in the first 2 years.

I hope this clears any doubts.

Wish you a good health.
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