The term vascular disease covers any condition that affects the network of your blood vessels. This network is known as your vascular, or circulatory system.
'Vascular' comes from a Latin word for hollow container. If your entire network of blood vessels were stretched end to end, they could circle the Earth multiple times!
Some of these vessels move blood. As your heart beats, it pumps blood with oxygen and nutrients around your body to feed your tissues and carry off waste.
There are different types of vascular disease
An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of any blood vessel.
It's most often seen in the aorta; the main blood vessel leaving your heart. You can also get an aortic aneurysm in your chest, where it's called thoracic, or your belly, where it's called abdominal.
Small aneurysms generally pose no threat. But they put you at risk for other problems:
- plaque deposits may build up where the aneurysm is
- a clot may form there and then break off and get stuck somewhere else, which could be very dangerous
- the aneurysm might get bigger and press on other organs, which causes pain
Atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease
Coronary arteries supply blood to your heart muscle. Peripheral arteries carry blood to other tissues and organs. Both can have deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances on their inside walls called plaque. Over time, plaque can build up, which causes the vessel to become narrow, making it harder for blood to flow. Or a plaque could rupture, blocking blood flow.
Am I at risk?
Vascular disease can affect anyone. While not all vascular diseases have the same risk factors, there are some factors which mean you may be more at risk of experiencing vascular disease. These include:
- hyperlipidaemia (high levels of fats like cholesterol in the blood)
- high blood pressure
- lack of exercise
Do you have vascular disease?
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