Vascular disease is a serious condition that increases the risk of developing heart disease.
Why is vascular disease dangerous?
Vascular disease can cause:
- Heart attacks
- Ruptured blood vessels, secondary to aneurysm formation
- Kidney failure due to restricted blood flow
- Limb loss
Some People Don't Experience Symptoms
At least half of the 8-15 million Americans affected by vascular disease report no symptoms. Other symptoms, such as leg pain, may be mistaken for other conditions, such as arthritis. Certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, overeating and not exercising, increase your risk for developing vascular disease.
Types of Vascular Disease
Vascular disease is a group of conditions affecting the blood vessels outside of the heart. There are two kinds of vascular disease:
- Arterial disease affects the arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood and nutrients away from the heart to the rest of the body.
- Venous disease affects the veins, which return blood to the heart after the body has used the nutrients and oxygen.
Atherosclerosis: Narrowing of the Arteries and Veins
Sometimes arteries or veins develop disorders that restrict blood flow. Vessels can become blocked by fatty deposits or plaque, which consists of cholesterol and fatty substances, calcium, and blood components. This process, called atherosclerosis, often develops over a period of years. Blood vessels can become swollen and painful, or the walls can become thin and possibly rupture.
What causes vascular disease?
There are two primary causes of vascular disease.
- Age or Family History: Development of vascular disease may be related to age or family history. Post-menopausal women are at increased risk of vascular disease. People who have a family history of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or aneurysm.
- Lifestyle: Another major factor in the development of vascular disease is related to lifestyle. People who are smokers, do not exercise enough or do not eat healthfully are at increased risk of developing vascular disease.
How can I reduce my risk of developing vascular disease?
The best way to prevent vascular disease is to cut out risky behaviors. If you quit smoking, cut back on high-fat foods, exercise regularly and control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, you will lower your risk of reducing blood flow or damaging your blood vessels.