Arterial Vascular Diseases

Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood containing oxygen from the heart to the rest of your body.  Oxygen comes from the air we breathe and is necessary for muscles and organs to function properly.  In arterial vascular disease, problems occur due to a restriction or narrowing in these blood vessels.  Usually, this is the result of atherosclerosis, previously termed “hardening of the arteries.”  With atherosclerosis, cholesterol causes plaques (thick patches) to develop on the inside of the vessels.  This restriction keeps the blood and thereby, oxygen, from getting where it needs to go.

Atherosclerosis.jpg

Arterial vascular disease often occurs in the blood vessels of the legs, causing a lack of oxygen to the muscles which in turn causes pain with walking.  It can also form in the arteries that bring blood to a person’s heart, brain or kidneys, causing life threatening conditions such as stroke or kidney failure.

Who is at risk for atherosclerosis?

People with these risk factors may have a greater chance of developing atherosclerosis:

  • Smoking is the number one risk factor. 
  • Diabetes
  • Age - those over 50 years old are at higher risk and the risk continues to increase with advancing age.
  • History of heart disease, in an individual or close relatives
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of homocysteine (a form of protein found in blood)

 

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