Vascular Disease: The Silent Killer

Vascular disease is a leading cause of death in the UK, responsible for 40% of all deaths each year. That makes it as common as heart disease and cancer. Many of these deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices.

What is Vascular Disease?

Vascular disease is a group of conditions affecting the circulation system. It occurs when fatty deposits build up inside blood vessel walls over time. This can inflame and weaken the veins, arteries and lymph vessels. It impairs circulation, leading to poor mobility and pain. Left untreated, it can cause peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis, amputation, heart disease and stroke.

Vascular disease goes by many other names:

  • Arterial disease
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Carotid disease
  • Venous disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia
  • Lymphedema
  • Blood clotting disorders like thrombosis and embolisms

The high prevalence of vascular disease is concerning because it can severely impact quality of life. As circulation becomes impaired, people may experience:

  • Numb, painful or discoloured limbs
  • Non-healing leg ulcers
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Poor vision or sudden vision loss
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Chest pain with exertion
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure

Vascular disease reduces mobility through peripheral artery disease, which causes cramping or tiredness in leg muscles after walking short distances. Venous disease leads to leg swelling and varicose veins. Lymphedema causes fluid buildup and swelling as lymph drainage is blocked.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, limits blood flow to vital organs and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms. Blood clots from vascular damage can break off and cause pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, or stroke.

Clearly, preventing vascular disease is critical to preserve health and mobility.

Are You At Risk?

There are several risk factors that make vascular disease more likely:

  • Age – Risk rises after 50. Monitor health regularly as you age.
  • Gender – More common in males at an earlier age.
  • Ethnicity – More prevalent in those of south Asian, African or Caribbean descent.
  • Family history – Higher risk if relatives had vascular issues.
  • High blood pressure – Check it regularly.
  • Smoking – Tobacco narrows blood vessels.
  • Obesity – BMI over 25 raises risk.
  • Diabetes – Doubles cardiovascular disease risk.
  • High cholesterol – Test it at home.
  • Poor diet – Too much fat, sugar, salt. Not enough fibre and produce.
  • Excessive alcohol use.
  • Inactivity – Sedentary lifestyle harms heart and vessels.
  • Stress.

5 Tips to Prevent Vascular Disease

Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce many risk factors. Here are 5 tips:

  1. Exercise 30 minutes daily.
  2. Eat more fibre, whole grains, fruits, vegetables. Less fat, salt, sugar.
  3. Quit smoking and reduce alcohol.
  4. Relax with yoga, meditation, socialising.
  5. Monitor health by testing blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol and waist size at home.

These tests allow you to detect any issues early, when vascular disease is most treatable. They also establish baselines for tracking changes over time.

Consider investing in the following home tests:

  • Blood pressure monitor – Take readings daily or weekly to catch hypertension early.
  • Blood sugar kit – Detect prediabetes or monitor diabetes. Test fasting and after meals.
  • Cholesterol test – Lipid profile reveals total cholesterol and HDL, LDL levels. Test every 3-12 months.
  • Body tape measure – Measure waist circumference monthly.

Also discuss screening with your doctor. They may recommend:

  • Ankle-brachial index – Compares arm and ankle blood pressure to detect PAD.
  • Ultrasound – Checks blood flow in neck, legs, arms. Finds blockages.
  • CT or MR angiography – Images blood vessels for atherosclerosis.
  • Echocardiogram – Assesses heart function.

Detecting vascular issues early provides the best opportunity for effective treatment through lifestyle changes and medication.

Join The Body Walk Fundraiser

This September, the Circulation Foundation’s #TheBodyWalk campaign raises vascular disease awareness. Walk, run, cycle or swim and get sponsored £1 per mile! Learn more at The Body Walk Fundraiser.

See Your Doctor

Discuss any vascular health concerns with your GP. They can test you and advise. Home health tests can also help monitor your health.

Vascular disease is common but preventable. Know your risks and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Photo by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Health

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

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