House Call: Intracranial Atherosclerosis and its Relationship to Stroke
While many individuals are familiar with coronary artery disease and the health dangers of hardening and blockages in the heart arteries; less people are aware that the arteries in the brain are also extremely susceptible to hardening and can be just as dangerous and life-threatening.
Intracranial atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries in the brain and is considered a controllable risk factor for stroke.
Generally there are no symptoms of intracranial atherosclerosis until the arteries are so clogged with plaque that blood can no longer flow through them. Unfortunately, many people do not find out they have this problem until after they have already had a stroke. This further supports the importance of knowing stroke symptoms, which include the sudden onset of weakness in your arms or legs, blurry vision, dizziness, staggering gate/difficulty balancing and speech difficulty.
The same lifestyle modifications that help modify risk factors of stroke are also helping to prevent the development of intracranial atherosclerosis. Recommended lifestyle changes to help prevent the condition include a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, losing weight (if necessary), regular exercise, controlling blood pressure and quitting smoking and/or avoiding tobacco use.
Our area is fortunate to have a certified Primary Stroke Center here in the community. The Cone Health Stroke Center and EMS work and train together to provide fast, effective care for stroke emergencies, as well as diagnosing and treating conditions such as intracranial atherosclerosis, in the area.
Sharon Biby is a nurse practitioner and director of Cone Health Stroke Center. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Masters of Science in Nursing and Gerontological Nurse Practitioner from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She earned a Postgraduate Certificate as an Adult Nurse Practitioner from UNCG in 2000 and a Postgraduate Certificate as an Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner from Arizona State University and University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2011.