Q: My family has a history of heart disease. Is there a test that can tell me if I'm at risk for stroke?
Yes. A carotid ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves to make an image of your carotid artery and check for signs of narrowing. The carotid artery is the blood vessel that moves blood to your brain. When it gets hardened or clogged with plaque, it can increase your risk of stroke.
Not everyone needs carotid screening, but if you have other risk factors—like if you're a smoker over age 50, if you have a history of heart disease, or if you're over age 65—it can help your doctor spot a potential blockage early so it can be treated.