Westmeath examiner – whelehans pharmacy atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)

Treatment for atherosclerosis aims to prevent the condition from worsening to the point that it can trigger a serious complication such as a heart attack. This can be achieved by lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet or increasing exercise. Several medications are available to treat the underlying causes of atherosclerosis, such as a high cholesterol level and high blood pressure. Antiplatelet medication such as aspirin thins blood so helps prevent clots. Surgery may be required to widen or bypass a section of a blocked or narrowed artery.

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) can be used to treat narrowing of the coronary arteries. During a CABG, healthy blood vessel segments (grafts) are taken from other parts of the body in to be used to bypass the blocked artery.


Segments of vein taken from the legs, arms and chest are used to create a new channel through which blood can be directed past the blocked part of the artery. This enables more blood to get through to the heart muscle.

Surgery is usually only recommended to widen the carotid arteries if the person has experienced previous symptoms related to a blocked blood supply, such as a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Unlike the coronary arteries, preventative surgery on the carotid arteries is not usually recommended, except in cases where testing shows high-levels of narrowing. Studies show the benefits achieved in reducing the risks of a stroke in most people without any symptoms are outweighed by the risks associated with surgery.

A carotid endarterectomy is the most commonly used method of widening the carotid artery (the main artery in the neck). During the procedure a cut is made into the narrowed part of the artery and the inner lining of the artery is removed, along with any plaque inside it. Most surgeons sew a patch into the opening to widen this section of the artery. The patch may be taken from a vein in the thigh or it may be synthetic.

A carotid angioplasty uses a balloon catheter. The catheter is inserted into the femoral artery (the body’s main blood vessel) in the groin. Under the guidance of X-ray, the catheter is threaded up into the femoral artery until it reaches the carotid artery. The balloon is then inflated to around 5mm in diameter. This expands the artery, clearing the narrowing enabling blood flow through it again.

A new type of surgery used to treat blockage of the carotid artery is known as an extracranial to intracranial bypass. In this type of surgery, a section of blood vessel found outside of the skull is diverted and used to bypass the site of the blockage so the blood supply to the brain can be restored. Extracranial to intracranial bypass is still very much an evolving field of treatment and it is unclear how effective or safe it may be in the long-term.

Whelehans has a cardiovascular health check called BPro Cardio Screen. It measures stiffness of your arteries to help identify risk of blockages and risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. BPRo is placed like a watch on your wrist and is completely pain free. A pulse wave reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of large, small, and peripheral artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. It is now only €35 (was €50); it takes about 15 minutes. To coincide with World Heart Day which is end of September Our next clinic is Thursday September 27 th from 9am to 5pm. Call 04493 34591, drop into Whelehans Pearse St or Message Whelehans Pharmacy on Facebook to book.