Healthy carotid arteries are smooth and unobstructed, allowing blood to flow freely to the brain and provide oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients that your brain cells need. Typically with age, the carotid arteries build up plaque, a sticky substance made up mostly of fat and cholesterol. Plaque narrows the passageway within the arteries and causes them to become stiff. Carotid artery disease results when the carotid arteries become too narrow or obstructed and limit the blood flow to the brain.
Strokes result either from obstruction of blood flow to the brain by the plaque or when bits of plaque and clots break off from the plaque and flow to the brain. If left untreated, carotid artery disease may lead to stroke. Depending on its severity, a stroke can be fatal. In fact, strokes are the third leading cause of death in Ireland and the leading cause of permanent disability in older adults.