Arteries and Vein Problems
Preventing vascular disease can improve the health of your circulatory system which is often overlooked by many. Heart disease is the primary cause of death in the United States. It affects 13 million plus Americans. Although some worry over varicose or spider veins, coronary artery disease is much more serious and can take many forms like atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis or ischemia.
Spider veins, smaller than varicose veins, are usually red or blue. A milder form of varicose veins, they have a spider web-like appearance and commonly showing up on the legs or face. Varicose veins frequently affect veins in legs and feet. As blood flows through veins, tiny one-way valves help push blood back to the heart. Valves open to allow blood through and then close to keep the blood from flowing backwards. Varicose veins have valves that fail and blood pools up into bulging veins and blood is not circulated as well. Varicose veins result from pregnancy, obesity, long periods of standing or a combination. All increase the pressure in the veins of your lower extremities. For most, spider and varicose veins are cosmetically unsightly and don’t usually cause issues. For some, varicose veins cause throbbing pain, muscle cramps, swelling, burning, itchiness and even skin ulcers. Self care for varicose veins includes regular exercise, wearing compression stockings and elevating the legs. These measures can help relieve pain and keep the condition from worsening.
Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a blood clot that can form deep within the thigh or lower leg area but may form in other areas. Clots occur when blood thickens and clumps in one area. When a portion breaks off it can travel through the bloodstream. A mobile clot is called an embolus. If it travels to an artery in the lungs it can block blood flow and this is called a pulmonary embolism, a serious condition. Lungs and other organs can be damaged. Injury to the vein lining by way of physical trauma, biological or chemical issues like surgery, immune responses or inflammation can all cause DVT. Hereditary blood disorders, being bedridden for an extended period, taking hormone therapy or birth control, undergoing cancer treatment, obesity, and age can all increase risk of DVT.
Coronary artery disease is a common concern with vascular health. Arteriosclerosis is when the arteries themselves harden. Atherosclerosis occurs in arteries when there’s too much plaque and the passage way for blood flow is narrowed. With blood flow compromised, the heart cannot get enough oxygen. This is called ischemia. It happens when over a period of time fat, calcium, cholesterol and other substances build up on the artery’s walls. The build up or plaque can clog arteries causing blood flow to diminish. Chronic ischemia occurs when the arteries are so narrowed with plaque that blood flow is limited all the time.
Unfortunately there’s not a cure for heart disease. But you can reduce your risk by taking care of your heart. Eat a diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. Keep blood pressure in check. Don’t smoke and exercise regularly.
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What is Deep Vein Thrombosis? National Institutes of Health.gov. 11 Oct. 2011. 20 Jan. 2012.