Vascular Disease FAQs

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 flow[5].

What are the different types of Vascular Disease?

Two of the most common vascular diseases are CAD and PAD[1]. To learn more about the causes, treatment and risks of vascular disease, visit the What is Vascular Disease page.

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 amputation[9]. Learn more about Atherosclerosis and Vascular Disease

How are they diagnosed?

For both CAD and PAD, symptoms often do not present themselves until a serious vascular event occurs[2],[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 tests[14],[16].

CAD:

  • Electrocardiogram: records electronic signals travelling through the heart, which gives an indication of the heart tissue.
  • 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

PAD:

  • 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

What are the options?

Plaque is difficult to reverse 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 events[9].

What are the treatment options?

The current standard of treatment for CAD and PAD include lifestyle changes, prescription medication and sometimes surgery[14],[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 history[9].

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.

When 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 ask your doctor if 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 another[17]. 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.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is defined by a sudden decrease in blood flow within the heart. In the context of vascular disease, this is caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries due to atherosclerotic plaque. When this plaque ruptures, a blood clot forms restricting blood flow within the artery. This deprives the heart of vital oxygen, subsequently triggering a heart attack[18].

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