Our body uses blood vessels to circulate blood throughout itself, but problems along this vast network of arteries, veins and capillaries can cause severe disability and possibly death. Vascular disease is any abnormal condition of the blood vessels. While almost everyone is at risk of developing a vascular disease, lifestyle choices can help prevent or cause serious health problems.
We’ve all heard that smoking causes lung cancer and greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, but did you know that is also increases the risk of vascular disease? Smoking harms your blood vessels in many ways and can raise your risk for developing a multitude of issues:
Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This happens when plaque builds up inside your artery walls, making them narrow and stiff. Atherosclerosis has been linked to serious conditions like heart attack and stroke.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge or weak spot in the main artery in your abdomen. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a dangerous blood clot in a vein. If a piece of the clot breaks loose, it can travel to your heart, lungs or brain, causing life-threatening problems like heart attack, pulmonary embolism and stroke.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which happens when blood vessels in your legs become narrowed or blocked. If left untreated, PAD can lead to limb loss.
Stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition that happens when the blood flow to your brain is blocked.
If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Talk with your doctor on how to quit and to develop a plan that works for you.
Get — and Stay — Active
It’s no secret that exercise is good for the body. Regular physical activity can lower your risk for vascular disease by helping keep your body healthy and maintaining normal bodily functions.
Blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and raises your risk for atherosclerosis and stroke.
High cholesterol. Our bodies need cholesterol to properly function, but too much can build up in your arteries and lead to atherosclerosis, raising your risk for heart attack, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and stroke.
Blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is linked to diabetes, which changes the chemistry of your blood and can make your blood vessels narrow.
Even busy people can fit exercise into your schedule. Moderate amounts of physical activity can have a big impact on your heart health. Set a goal to achieve 30 minutes of physical activity each day, whether that’s taking your dog for a walk or going on a bike ride with the family.
Choose Healthy Foods
Making healthy changes to your diet benefits your entire body, including your vascular system. You don’t have to give up all of your favorite foods, but making a conscious effort to choose foods that are vitamin-rich and low in cholesterol and fat goes a long way for your blood vessels. A balanced diet includes:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Lean meat and poultry
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
Follow Your Treatment Plan
Preexisting health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are linked to vascular disease, so it’s important to follow your regular treatment plan. Keep your regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and continue to take the medicines prescribed by your doctor.
As always, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about what you can do to lower your risk to determine the best strategy for preventing or managing cardiovascular di
Am I a Candidate?
Determine if you are at risk for developing or already have symptoms for venous disease.