Vascular health is important
for everyone.

Arteries and veins (blood vessels) are our bodies’ natural highways that circulate blood through arms, legs, and internal organs. Vascular disease occurs when an abnormal condition affects the blood vessels. This can often lead to severe disability and death.

Vascular disease is any abnormal condition of the blood vessels (arteries and veins.) Vascular diseases outside the heart can “present” themselves anywhere. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) alone affects 8-12 million people in the US, affects women and men equally and can occur in anyone at any time.

Understanding The Vascular System

Your vascular system – the highways of the body – is composed of three types of blood vessels.

 

Arteries

Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart, nourishing every part of the body. The one exception is the pulmonary artery, which carries oxygen-poor blood from your heart to your lungs, where it exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen.

Veins

Veins carry the blood back to the heart where it is replenished with oxygen.  The newly oxygen-rich blood gets pumped back into the heart via the pulmonary vein.

Capillaries

Capillaries connect the arteries to the veins. Vascular disease commonly occurs at sites of unstable blood flow. For example, when the blood flow in the arteries changes direction suddenly.

The arteries below are the most common areas for unstable blood flow:

Arch Branches

  • Provides Bloodflow to the Brain via the Carotid Arteries

Arch Branches supply blood to the brain through the carotid arteries, and when diseased, frequently cause life threatening strokes.

Coronary Arteries

  • Provides Bloodflow to the Heart

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart and, when diseased, can block the flow of blood and cause a heart attack. This is a cardiovascular disease and is primarily managed by heart specialists – cardiologists.

Renal Arteries

  • Provides Bloodflow to the Kidneys

Iliac Arteries

  • Provides Bloodflow to the Hips & Legs

Iliac Arteries supply blood to the hips and the legs and, when diseased, cause leg pain with walking (claudication), often in both legs.

Femoral Arteries

  • Provides Bloodflow to the Legs

Femoral Arteries are the main blood supply to the legs. They start in the upper thigh, near the groin area and run down to the back of the knee. The most important function of the femoral arteries is to supply the lower body with oxygen and nutrients. If there is a disease that causes blockage (like a clot or plaque build-up) claudication may occur. If left untreated, this can lead to circulation problems, and may progress to chronic limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI), a severe form of Peripheral Artery Disease.
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Types of Vascular Disease

There are many different types of vascular disease. Some are caused by lifestyle factors, like level of physical activity and diet. Others are caused by genetics. And sometimes the onset of vascular disease can be linked to both, and to other factors as well. That’s why it’s important to learn about the different types of vascular diseases, and to speak to a provider if you might be at risk. Read on for information about common vascular diseases.

Vascular disease can affect everyone.

The cost in terms of pain, disability, and medical treatment are enormous. For example, healthcare costs related to PAD are more than $21 billion annually in the US alone. Stroke costs $33 billion, spent on hospitalizations and related healthcare. The costs continue to grow because vascular diseases are often diagnosed later and become a chronic issue that involves frequent complications.

Because the vascular system is so complex and far reaching, diseases can appear anywhere in the body in many different forms. Vascular disease often occurs along with other diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

Use the information in the links below to learn more about 27 different types of vascular diseases including the most common: PAD, Atherosclerosis, and Carotid Artery Disease.

Are You at Risk?

Vascular disease can affect anyone. “Risk factors” are the things that put you at a higher risk for developing vascular disease – these are things like diet, genetics, and age. Knowing your risk factors can help you prevent or better manage vascular disease. Some risk factors (like family history) are not something you can change. Others are factors you can take action on to lower your risk and improve your vascular health.

While not all vascular diseases have the same risk factors, here are some of the more common ones:

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia (high levels of fats like cholesterols in the blood)
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise

Talk to a provider about your risk of vascular conditions such as Peripheral Artery Disease or Stroke. The earlier you begin to change your behaviors, the better your chance of avoiding or successfully managing vascular disease.

Prevention is Possible

Vascular disease can strike anyone, at any age, at any time. It often strikes without warning. Symptoms may not appear until it is limb or life-threatening. Here’s what you can do to reduce the risk of major disability or even death.

How to Find Resources

Vascular Cures is here to help those living with vascular conditions. We have developed this list of resources to help patients navigate the questions and challenges associated with vascular disease.