Vascular health is important
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 and the vascular disease 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 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 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Provides Bloodflow to the Kidneys
- 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.
- Provides Bloodflow to the Legs
Femoral Arteries supply blood to the legs. If they become diseased, it may cause claudication, usually in the calf muscles. This lack of circulation can lead to continuous pain in the toes and foot, and may progress to critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI). Claudation in the calves leading to lack of circulation. This can cause continuous pain in toes & feet and progress to critical limb ischemia and blocked femoral arteries. Left untreated this can result in amputation.
Types of Vascular Disease
With the increase in obesity and Type II diabetes in Americans and as the population ages, vascular diseases are becoming epidemic. PAD alone affects 8.5 million people. It can occur in anyone at any time; affecting men and women equally. Atherosclerosis can begin in adolescence.
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?
Knowing your risk factors can help you prevent or better manage vascular disease.