Cerebral Arteriosclerosis

ExitCare ImageCerebral arteriosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries in the brain become thicker, harder and narrower than normal. Cerebral arteriosclerosis can result in a number of serious or fatal problems:

  • Ischemic stroke. This occurs if cerebral arteriosclerosis interferes with blood flow to the brain, or if a blood clot (thrombosis) blocks off an artery, depriving the brain of oxygen.

  • Hemorrhagic stroke. This occurs when the wall of an artery develops a bulging weak spot (aneurysm). If the aneurysm bursts, it causes bleeding into the brain.

  • Vascular dementia: Repeated, small strokes result in damage to the brain over time.


A number of things can increase a person's risk of developing cerebral arteriosclerosis. Factors that cannot be changed include:

  • Sex. Men are more likely than women to develop the disorder.

  • Age. The likelihood of this disorder increases with age.

  • Family history.

Factors that can be changed include:

  • High blood pressure.

  • Cholesterol problems (especially high LDL or low HDL).

  • Smoking.

  • Diabetes.

  • Being overweight (obesity).

  • Inactivity.

  • High fat diet.


Symptoms may include:

  • Numbness.

  • Weakness.

  • Speech problems.

  • Problems swallowing.

  • Numbness (paralysis) of half the body.

  • Vision problems.

  • Confusion.

  • Irritability.

  • Personality changes.


Tests for cerebral arteriosclerosis include:

  • CT scan.

  • MRI.

  • Dye is put into the arterial system of the brain, then the brain is imaged with MRI (magnetic resonance angiogram).

  • Dye is put into the arterial system of the brain, and x-rays are taken (cerebral arteriogram).

  • Ultrasound is used to view the arteries of the brain (Transcranial Doppler).


Treatment is aimed at addressing the risk factors that can worsen arteriosclerosis. Treatment can be medicines, behavior/lifestyle changes, or surgery.

Medicines may be given to:

  • Lower blood pressure.

  • Lower cholesterol level.

  • Control diabetes.

  • Thin the blood to try to avoid blood clots.

Behavior/lifestyle changes can include:

  • Stopping smoking.

  • Eating a low fat/low cholesterol/low sodium diet.

  • Exercising.

  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Surgery may be necessary to repair an aneurysm, or to remove blood from your brain after a bleed.


  • Take all your medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Consider talking with a registered nutritionist to help you set up and follow a healthy diet.

  • Ask your caregiver to approve any new exercise programs.


  • You have a severe headache.

  • You have weakness or numbness of a part of your body.

  • You develop droopiness of your face.

  • You have difficulty speaking.

  • You have difficulty swallowing.

  • You have problems understanding other people's speech.

  • You develop confusion.

  • You have vision problems.

  • You have personality changes.