Your questions answered: find helpful information on topics relating to your vascular health. Vascular disease comes in different forms, and affects different people. Here are some of the more common questions people have, with simple answers to help you or a loved one make the right choices for you.

What is vascular disease?

Vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries and veins, thereby affecting blood flow through the body. This can result in organs or other body parts such as the heart or even arms and legs being damaged due to decreased or completely blocked blood flow5.

What are the different types of vascular disease?

Two of the most common vascular diseases are CAD and PAD1. To learn more about the causes, treatment and risks of vascular disease, visit the What is Vascular Disease page here.

What causes them?

CAD and PAD 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 amputation9. To learn more about atherosclerosis, visit the What is Vascular Disease page here.

How are they diagnosed?

For both CAD and PAD, symptoms often do not present themselves until a serious vascular event occurs2,4. Because of this, it is important to be mindful of the various risks that could lead to developing one of these conditions. Please visit the What is Vascular Disease page to learn more about these CAD and PAD can be diagnosed with a variety of tests14,16.



  • Electrocardiogram: records electronic signals travelling through the heart to show blood flow deficiency, a sign of CAD
  • Echocardiogram: creates images of the heart via soundwaves to determine how well it’s working. An area of the heart that shows weak movement can signal damage caused by a lack of oxygen and reduced blood flow
  • Stress test: measures the impact of physical activity on the heart by conducting an electrocardiogram whilst walking on a treadmill or doing a similar exercise. A nuclear stress test is like a stress test, but collects images of the heart via a small camera inserted into the bloodstream. These images show resting and stress induced blood flow, which can highlight areas of the heart that receive less blood. This can be a sign of plaque build-up and, subsequently, CAD
  • Angiogram: injects dye into the arteries to highlight any abnormalities, such as plaque build-up
  • Heart scan: tests the level of calcium deposits, a component of plaque, to determine how narrowed the arteries are



  • Ankle-brachial index: a non-invasive exam that compares blood pressure in the leg and the arm to test for PAD. This is done via a blood pressure cuff and an ultrasound to examine both blood flow and pressure
  • Physical exam: tests abnormalities in the pulse of a specific limb during exercise
  • Angiogram: injects dye into the arteries to highlight any abnormalities, such as plaque build-up
  • Ultrasound to visually identify the blockage in the limb
  • Blood test: Uses a blood sample to test for high cholesterol, a common risk factor of PAD and a sign of plaque build-up
What is the prognosis?

Plaque cannot be reduced once it has developed in the arteries. However, with the appropriate medications and lifestyle changes, you can prevent its progression and protect yourself from further damage or events9.

What are the treatment options?

The current standard of treatment for CAD and PAD include lifestyle changes, prescription medication and sometimes surgery14,16. Visit the What is CAD and What is PAD pages for more information on what these include for each disease.

Can vascular disease be prevented?

Vascular diseases can, in certain cases, be prevented if appropriate measures are taken to reduce your risk. These include a healthy diet, regular exercise, abstinence from smoking and stress reduction. However, in some cases, people are genetically inclined to develop a vascular disease based on their family history9.


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.

How often should I see a doctor?

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, it is important to visit your doctor as much as you need to ensure you are doing all that you can to protect your vascular health.

Are the risks of developing CAD and PAD the same?

Generally, the risks of developing CAD and PAD are similar. It is important to understand that if you have been diagnosed with one vascular disease you are likely to be at higher risk of having another17. Therefore, you should monitor your vascular health and speak to your doctor to ensure you are doing all you can to reduce your risk of further events.


Science and medicine in vascular health are moving at a fast pace in an area called vascular protection. Scientists are exploring how hazards can be further lowered for people at risk, and the results of these studies hold interest for patients and doctors alike.



1 Johns Hopkins Medicine. Overview of the Vascular System. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/overview_of_the_vascular_system_85,P08254/ Accessed April 2018
2 Mayo Clinic. Coronary artery disease symptoms and causes. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350613 Accessed December 2017
3 Hiramoto JS1, Katz R, Weisman S, Conte M. et al. Gender-specific risk factors for peripheral artery disease in a voluntary screening population. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Mar 13;3(2):e000651.
4 Mayo Clinic. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – Overview. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/home/ovc-20167418 Accessed December 2017
5 NHS Choices. Cardiovascular disease. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/ Accessed June 2018
6 WHO. Cardiovascular Diseases. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/ Accessed December 2017
7 Heart and Stroke Foundation. Coronary artery disease. Available at: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/coronary-artery-disease Accessed December 2017
8 WHO. The top 10 causes of death. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/ Accessed December 2017
9 NHS Choices. Atherosclerosis. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Atherosclerosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx Accessed April 2018
10 NIH. Atherosclerosis. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis Accessed June 2018
11 Morris, P. et al. 2015. Eureka: Cardiovascular Medicine. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DPpHCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=circulatory+100,000km&source=bl&ots=ya-rLoVYL5&sig=jxLYNAxdFxN4UTUX8V2jslRwduo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4w5-RvejXAhULqVQKHehcBrwQ6AEIWjAJ#v=onepage&q=circulatory%20100%2C000km&f=false Accessed April 2018
12 Live Science. 11 Surprising Facts About the Circulatory System. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/39925-circulatory-system-facts-surprising.html Accessed April 2018
13 InnerBody. Cardiovascular System. Available at: http://www.innerbody.com/image/cardov.html Accessed December 2017
14 Mayo Clinic. Coronary artery disease (CAD) – Treatment. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/disease-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20165340 Accessed April 2018
15 Degrauwe S, et al. Dual antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention of coronary artery disease. http://openheart.bmj.com/content/4/2/e000651
16 Mayo Clinic. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) – Diagnosis and Treatment. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350563 Accessed April 2018
17 NHS Choices. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-pad/ Accessed June 2018