Your vascular system is your network of blood vessels that includes your arteries and veins. When your vascular system is healthy, blood travels freely through blood vessels, carrying oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body.
Any condition that affects your blood’s circulation is considered vascular disease—whether your vessels harden and narrow from a buildup of plaque, a condition called atherosclerosis, or they swell and their walls become thin and rupture.
Slowed, interrupted, or decreased blood flow can reduce life expectancy by causing a host of problems, including:
- Heart attacks
- Ruptured blood vessels, secondary to aneurysm formation
- Kidney failure due to restricted blood flow
- Limb loss
An estimated eight million to 15 million Americans have vascular disease, and at least half do not experience symptoms. Symptoms, such as leg pain, may be mistaken for other conditions, such as arthritis. In many cases, vascular disease has no symptoms until it results in a stroke, mini-stroke, or ruptured aneurysm.
Several conditions and lifestyle factors increase a person's risk, including:
- High cholesterol and lipid levels
- High blood pressure
- Family history of atherosclerosis
- Being overweight
- Sedentary (inactive) lifestyle
- High-stress lifestyle
- Over age 50 or post-menopausal (though it can occur at any age)
Read more about conditions considered vascular disease: