For those who know the dizzy feeling after getting a rush of blood to the head, it may be comforting to know that such things happen. That’s because a new study finds that some people, specifically those who have narrowing carotid arteries, may not be so lucky, as the lack of blood causes their brains to falter, resulting in problems with memory, learning, and other cognitive functions.

The results of the study, which will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, “underscore the importance of assessing the status of memory and thinking in people with carotid artery narrowing,” said Dr. Brajesh K. Lal, of the Baltimore VA Medical Center and University of Maryland School of Medicine, in a press release. The carotid arteries are the two main arteries, residing in the neck, that supply blood to the brain. They become blocked when fatty deposits, or plaques, build up and reduce blood flow.

For a long time doctors have only assumed that these deposits may lead to stroke and transient ischemic attacks, but the new research shows that there may be other not so apparent risks. The researchers tested 67 patients who had asymptomatic carotid stenosis (ACS) — the diameter of their arteries were 50 percent smaller due to blockage — and 60 who were at risk for it on a number of memory, processing speed, decision-making, language, and overall thinking tests. Those with ACS performed worse in all of them except for language, for which both groups performed about the same.

 “If these findings are confirmed in larger studies, they hold significant implications for new treatment targets and open the door for more questions such as: Should these patients be treated more aggressively with medications, cognitive rehabilitation, or even surgery to open up the artery,” Lal said in the release.

Getting blood to the brain is essential for a healthy, functioning body because the brain needs oxygen. If the brain begins to lose oxygen, it starts to malfunction and can eventually die. This is usually when a person would have a stroke or transient ischemic attack. Yet, preventing clogged carotid arteries isn’t necessarily difficult. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults get their cholesterol and blood pressure checked every five years, avoiding fatty foods and excessive alcohol consumption, and getting a regular amount of exercise.