Blood vessel disease, also known as vascular disease or artery disease is the narrowing down or constriction of blood vessels in the arms, abdomen and legs. The blood vessels in the body are responsible for the transport of oxygen, blood and nutrients throughout the body. Blood vessels comprise veins and arteries. The arteries (except pulmonary artery) carry oxygenated blood and the veins (except pulmonary vein) carry de-oxygenated blood. Narrowing of arteries and veins leads to artery disease. The constriction of arteries causes less oxygenated blood to flow to the different parts of the body, resulting in cell or tissue death. If this condition is not treated, it can end up in gangrene, which is a condition in which the cells and tissues of the body extremities die. When this happens, amputation of those parts of the body is done.
Causes of Blood Vessel Disease
Artery disease is generally caused due to constriction of blood vessels, by plaque built from fats and cholesterol over a long period of time. Saturated fats found in fried and junk foods go and collect on the walls of blood vessels, eventually blocking the path for blood flow. Family history, age, gender, etc. increase the possibility of getting vascular disease. People over the age of 45 or who have family members with such heart or blood vessel diseases are at greater risk of contracting this disease. Moreover, certain conditions such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and sedentary lifestyle can lead to blood vessel problems.
Types of Blood Vessel Disease
Vascular is divided into different types depending on the area to which blood flow is restricted. The main types of blood vessel problems and diseases are as follows:
Coronary Artery Disease: The chief cause for this condition is the build-up of fatty acids called plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries. These are arteries supplying blood laden with oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscles. When a person consumes a high-fat diet, the fatty material from the blood gets deposited on the walls of the coronary arteries, causing their pathways to narrow down. Over a period of time, the blood vessels will get blocked due to excess fat deposits and blood flow to the heart muscles will get stopped, thereby resulting in heart attack.
Aneurysm: This disease features a bulge or weakness in the walls of the blood vessel. The genesis of aneurysm takes place as a weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. As time passes, the force of blood in the blood vessel causes this weak portion to balloon out. Once the aneurysm is formed, it gets larger gradually, making it prone to rupture. This type of blood vessel disease can occur in the arteries of the brain or the heart, especially at the basal portion of the brain and the abdominal aorta. This disease can be life-threatening by resulting in brain hemorrhage and even death.
Peripheral Arterial Disease: This disease affects the blood supply to the arms and legs. This happens when the arteries in the legs narrow down, due to the build up of plaque in the arteries. This thickening of arterial walls by calcium, fibrous tissue, fat and cholesterol is called atherosclerosis. The arteries become narrow and blood flow to the different parts of the body is reduced. When the constriction is mild, the afflicted person faces pain in the legs while walking or exercising, which subsides after some rest. In the later stages, the arteries get even more blocked, leading to acute pain and cramping. In severe cases, this condition can also result in tissue death. Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. increase the risks of peripheral arterial disease.
Hypertension: High blood pressure is one very common artery diseases in the West and is caused by the increased pressure of the blood moving through the blood vessels. Hypertension can be life-threatening; however, it has several treatment options. This condition can lead to heart failure and stroke as well. Artery diseases are also called diseases of the cardiovascular system. Coronary artery disease and hypertension are the two most common forms of blood vessel problems. A leading cause of death worldwide is cardiovascular disease. This can also affect blood vessels of the brain, thereby leading to dementia.
Symptoms of Blood Vessel Disease
These signs are observed in the arms, abdomen and legs. They are as follows:
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle ache
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale skin
- Hair loss on the toes, feet and legs
- Sores that take too long to heal
- Sores when scabbed over appear black
- Slight or no pulse in the feet or legs
- Skin and nails appear reddish-blue in color
While nothing much can be done to change inherited genes, one can prevent blood vessel disease by keeping a strict tab on one's diet. By making healthy choices, one can prevent or slow down this vascular disease. One should avoid eating a lot of saturated fats, which are present in abundance in junk food and fried dishes. A high-fiber, balanced and nutritious meal is what will help keep this disease at bay. Regular exercise is also recommended to burn up the excess calories consumed. Moreover, exercise helps increase the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, which reduce risks of heart diseases and artery blocks.