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The exact diagnosis from the doctor’s note is carotid stenosis. “Carotid” for the carotid arteries — the large ones in your neck that carry oxygenated blood to your brain, and “stenosis” meaning narrowing.

I reported in an earlier post that I’d had a Doppler test on my carotid arteries and the technician heartily assured me that he’d tell me if everything went okay, and then he didn’t tell me that.

I got the test results back the other day and they did show a narrowing or plaque build up, but no “concerning” blockages. And while it’s showing up in my carotid arteries, that’s just an easy place to do the test. This generally means I have plaque build up (or atherosclerosis, a.k.a., hardening of the arteries) throughout my body. Usually they find atherosclerosis happens in the cardiac/heart arteries before it shows up in the carotid. (So I have that to worry about and now have something to discuss with my cardiologist the next time I see him.) It can also show up in places such as your kidneys and liver and cause peripheral artery disease which can cause issues with your arms, legs, and pelvis.

Coronary heart disease (CHD), where the plaque builds up in the arteries of the heart, is the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States, as CHD can lead to heart attack.

Other fun things include stroke and kidney disease or failure. There is also a potential link between atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

There are a lot of risk factors for atherosclerosis including the usual ones of diet and exercise as well as diabetes, hypertension, and family health history risks. Interestingly, one of the emerging factors is inflammation as indicated by elevated CRP levels. Sound familiar? Yes, those same CRP tests that those of us with RA routinely get to see if our inflammation is under control.

So starting immediately the doctor has added low-dose aspirin to my mix of prescriptions and supplements. Aspirin doesn’t do anything about the plaque, but it does thin the blood so it can more easily move through the narrowed arteries. Doing something about the plaque is up to me and making better choices about what I eat and the exercise I get. I am also hopeful that now that Xeljanz seems to be improving my RA symptoms, that it’s also helping improve my overall inflammation.

“A” also stands for “attitude” and I am hopeful that you are able to face whatever your life holds today with a healthy, happy one. Thanks for checking in.

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