Did You Know?
The vascular system is the body’s network of vessels, responsible for carrying blood, oxygen and nutrients around the body.1 Over 100,000 kilometres long,2 your vascular system could wrap itself around the world 2.5 times.2
The vascular system is made up of three types of vessels: arteries, capillaries and veins.1
Your vascular system also plays a crucial role in other body systems including the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems, together with temperature control.1
Vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries and veins, restricting blood flow through the body.1 Vascular disease includes coronary artery disease (CAD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD), and can result in damage to organs or other body parts, such as the heart or legs. This can lead to serious events such as heart attack, stroke and amputation.1,5 Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels specifically.6 CVD is the number one cause of death worldwide, responsible for 31% of all deaths globally.7
Risk factors for vascular disease are divided into those that you can control and those you can’t. Although some people inherit a higher risk of vascular disease, making it diﬃcult to prevent, there are still ways you can reduce your risk.11,12
Family medical history: a family history of heart disease is associated with a higher risk of CAD and PAD, especially if a close relative developed heart disease at an early age.
Age: simply getting older increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries.
High blood pressure: uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the channel through which blood can ﬂow.
High cholesterol: high levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of plaque forming, and clogging arteries preventing blood from getting through and increasing your risk of developing a blood clot.
Diabetes: people with diabetes often face an increased risk of CAD and PAD, with type 2 diabetes sharing similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
Gender: men are generally at greater risk of CAD. However, the risk for women can increase after menopause.
Smoking: people who smoke have a signiﬁcantly increased risk, and exposing others to second-hand smoke also increases their risk of CAD.
Being overweight or obese: excess weight typically worsens other risk factors. It is important to ensure you are eating a healthy diet and following the recommended intake levels for alcohol.
Physical inactivity: lack of exercise is associated with CAD and PAD and some of its risk factors as well.
High stress: unmanaged stress in your life may contribute to cardiovascular disease as well as worsen other factors for CAD and PAD.
It is important to understand that if you have been diagnosed with one vascular disease, you are likely to be at a higher risk of having another.4 That is why you should monitor your vascular health and ask your doctor if you are doing all that you can to protect your vascular health.
Vascular protection means protecting the arteries to lower the risk of vascular diseases such as CAD and PAD. More speciﬁcally, it refers to limiting the build-up of plaque in the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, to help prevent the development of blood clots and more serious events such as heart attack and stroke.10,12
Protecting the arteries and the vascular system can be done in many ways, including lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management and stopping smoking.11,12
Medical therapies may also provide vascular protection. Such therapies include cholesterol modifying medications (statins), high blood pressure control (antihypertensives), diabetes control (insulin/antiglycaemic drugs), blood thinners and blood clot prevention therapies (antiplatelets and antithrombotics).13
It is important to understand that the risk of further complications may still remain after preventative treatment as plaque build-up can still occur. That is why you should monitor your vascular health and take necessary steps to control plaque build-up.
Science and medicine in vascular health are moving at a fast pace in the area of vascular protection, with scientists exploring how hazards can be further lowered for people at risk. The results of these studies hold interest for patients and doctors alike.
So, learn more, educate yourself and share these experiences and learnings! Take control in protecting your vascular health and encourage those around to do the same.
Watch below to learn more about the risk factors for vascular disease.
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