What is vascular disease

Introduction

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels5. CVD is the number one cause of death worldwide, responsible for 31% of all deaths globally and 17.7 million deaths each year.6

Vascular disease specifically affects the arteries and veins, restricting blood through the body. This includes CAD and PAD, and can result in damage to organs or other body parts, such as the heart, arms or legs, and can lead to serious events such as heart attack, stroke and amputation 1

What different types of cardiovascular disease are there?

There are many different types of CVD, including CAD and PAD 1. CAD, the most common form of CVD 7, accounts for 8.8 million deaths globally8. PAD affects an estimated 202 million people worldwide.3

Both conditions are caused by atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of fatty substances called plaque in the arteries. Atherosclerosis can cause blocked blood flow and limited oxygen supply to vital organs. This increases the risk of life-threatening problems such as heart attack, stroke and amputation.9

Atherosclerosis is a disease that may get worse over time. It causes the arteries to become hardened or narrowed, limiting the supply of blood, and then oxygen, to parts of the body including the heart, brain and limbs, leading to serious events such as heart attack, stroke and amputation 9. Plaque may also rupture and cause a blood clot to form, which can grow and further block blood flow.10

If you are over the age of 40 and feel you may be at increased risk of CAD and PAD, or already have these conditions, ask your doctor if you are doing all that you can to protect your vascular health.

Who is at risk of cardiovascular disease?

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:

  • 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 damage your arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for CAD and PAD

If you are over the age of 40 and feel you may be at increased risk of CAD and PAD, or already have these conditions, ask your doctor if you are doing all that you can to protect your vascular health.

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