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Monday 10 August, 2020

Dr Rowley heading to US for medical tests

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he will be leaving on Carnival Tuesday for the US to undergo medical tests concerning some 'soft plaque' which was found in one of his arteries. 

In a media briefing on Carnival Sunday, Dr Rowley did not specify what procedures would be done but said the issue originally arose in 2016 when he carried out a series of tests for prostate cancer in the US, following which he was given a clean bill of health.

He said while there he underwent a coronary scan where doctors observed a small build-up of soft plaque in one artery.

“I took the opportunity to do a coronary scan only because I was there and it was available. It turned out then that they did see a small…some soft plaque developing in one artery and they didn’t think that it required any unusual response other than to observe it….and to see if it progresses at all,” he said.

He said a follow-up examination revealed that the soft plaque appeared to be growing.

“The comments made by the team of doctors was that we should look at it and some kind of intervention might be required if we are not able to reverse it,” he said.

Dr Rowley said he has since had lifestyle and dietary changes in a bid to correct this.

He said he was due to return for checks in 2018 however he delayed the visit while attending to other priorities, such as a CARICOM meeting with the UN over the Venezuela crisis

Dr Rowley said on February 18 he went to a doctor in Trinidad, and upon examination, he was advised that he immediately treat with these issues.

However he again delayed the treatment in order to attend the CARICOM’s 30th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in February.

He said a planned meeting between CARICOM and US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has been rescheduled until further notice, so he will now proceed to carry out the tests.​

“At the earliest opportunity…it looks like Tuesday…I would leave and join my doctors and family in California and I’ll go through whatever processes and procedures are required….it would be dependent on what the outcome (of the medical tests) is,” he said.

Dr Rowley said he is otherwise in relatively good health but is acting on the advice of experts and added that he is unable to give more information until he undergoes the tests.

He added that he had no issue with carrying out the tests locally, however, the tests had been booked following the Washington meeting, which has since been cancelled. 

Dr Rowley did not specify the duration of his trip, saying only that he would be away for ‘a few days’, which would be determined by the nature of the results, adding that he is confident government would be ‘in good hands’ during his absence.


What is arterial plaque?

(Courtesy WebMD)

Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood rich in oxygen throughout the body. Healthy arteries have smooth inner walls and blood flows through them easily. Some people, however, develop clogged arteries.

Clogged arteries result from a buildup of a substance called plaque on the inner walls of the arteries. Arterial plaque can reduce blood flow or, in some instances, block it altogether.

Clogged arteries greatly increase the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, and even death. Because of these dangers, it is important to be aware, no matter how old you are, of the causes of artery plaque and treatment strategies to prevent serious consequences.

What causes arterial plaque?

Plaque that accumulates on the inner walls of arteries is made from various substances that circulate in your blood.

These include calcium, fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, and fibrin, a material involved in blood clotting. In response to plaque buildup, cells in the artery walls multiply and secrete additional substances that can worsen the state of clogged arteries.

As plaque deposits grow, a condition called atherosclerosis results. This condition causes the arteries to narrow and harden.

Although experts don’t know for sure what starts atherosclerosis, the process seems to stem from damage to the lining of the arterial wall. This damage, which enables the deposition of plaque, may result from:

- High levels of ''bad'' cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), are major contributors to arterial plaque formation. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Everyone also has ''good'' cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), circulating in the blood. HDL is believed to remove some of the bad cholesterol from plaque in clogged arteries and transport it back to the liver, where it is eliminated.

- Having high blood pressure increases the rate at which arterial plaque builds up. It also hastens the hardening of clogged arteries.

- Cigarette smoke seems to increase the rate of atherosclerosis in the arteries of the heart, legs, and the aorta -- the largest artery in the body.

- Diabetes, or elevated circulating blood sugar, is also a major culprit. Even people who have elevated sugars not yet at the level of diabetes, such as seen in metabolic syndrome, also have increased risk of plaque formation.

- Other risk factors include family history, stress, sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Knowing your family history is critical.

Plaque often starts to develop during the childhood or teenage years. Then clogged arteries develop in middle age or later.

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