Each year in the United States, more than 600,000 coronary stents are placed to help prevent the life-threatening complications that come from blocked arteries. Not only are these complications life-threatening, they’re all too common — nearly 930,000 Americans die due to cardiovascular disease, and artery diseases lead the charge.

The team here at South Shore Cardiovascular Associates is devoted to improving these fatality statistics, and one of the tools we rely on are stents. Here’s a look at how stents can improve your blood flow and greatly reduce your risks for heart attack and stroke.

Behind the blockages

To understand why stents can be so effective, let’s take a closer look at what we’re up against. Under ideal circumstances, your cardiovascular system should feature arteries — the blood vessels that transport blood from your heart to your body — that are free and clear of debris.

Unfortunately, millions of people have less-than-ideal cardiovascular systems thanks to atherosclerosis — a condition in which there’s plaque buildup along the walls of the arteries.

This plaque is largely made up of cholesterol, which is why we’re so concerned with the cholesterol levels in your body. We’re also very concerned about high blood pressure (hypertension) because the force of the blood on your arterial walls frays the linings of your arteries. This leaves a rougher surface that more easily traps excess cholesterol and fat, which leads to the aforementioned plaque buildup.

Not only can atherosclerosis interfere with the flow of blood in your body, these plaques can lead to blood clots that break free and lead to heart attack or stroke.

To give you an idea about how common this plaque buildup is, approximately 6.5 million Americans ages 40 and older have peripheral artery disease (PAD), and more than 18 million people have coronary artery disease (CAD).

Opening up with a stent

If we find that you have one or more dangerous blockages in your arteries, our goal is to open up the blood vessel and prevent the plaque from creating a dangerous blood clot. And that’s where the stent comes in.

A stent is a tube that we use to open up your blood vessels to promote smoother blood flow and to prevent a clot from forming. The stent resembles a metal mesh and, after we place it, it becomes a permanent fixture in your artery.

To place the stent, we typically perform an angioplasty first, which is a procedure in which we inflate a small balloon inside your blood vessel to make the space larger. Not only does the balloon increase the available space, it also presses the plaque firmly against the wall of your artery, making it far less likely to break free.

With the angioplasty complete, we then place the stent to keep the space open and to allow your blood to flow more freely.

We acknowledge that this is a fairly simple description of what is a complex procedure, but we wanted to give you a basic idea of the role that a stent can play in improving your cardiovascular health.

To learn more about stents, please book an appointment online or over the phone with South Shore Cardiovascular Associates today. We have offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida.

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