When it comes to arterial diseases, knowing the symptoms and risks can increase your life expectancy and provide more years of mobility and enjoyment.

Arterial disease occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries. Normally, your arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to different parts of the body. With plaque build-up, however, these passages can become blocked. Here are the top five things you need to know in order to keep healthy and stay ahead of the risks and impacts of arterial disease.


1. Know the difference between arterial diseases.

Arterial disease has many names and can cause many different symptoms. There are three types of arterial disease:

  • PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease) impacts the limbs and legs.
  • Coronary Artery Disease affects the heart.
  • Carotid Artery Disease impacts the neck and blood supply to the brain.


2. Know the symptoms – what are the signs?

Each artery has a different function in the body, so the symptoms for carotid artery disease are different than those for peripheral artery disease. When it comes to the limbs, peripheral artery disease can show up as cramping in the legs, or pain and/or tiredness in the legs and hips after walking. Coronary artery disease can present as chest pain or shortness of breath. Carotid artery disease may result in temporary loss of vision in one eye, dizziness, or a severe headache.

Key Symptoms:

  • Leg cramping
  • Leg pain
  • Tired legs or hips after walking
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of vision in one eye
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache

Symptoms are just a prelude to a bigger problem. If not rectified, arterial diseases increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or even amputation.


3. Know the risk factors – are you at risk?

You may be at higher risk for arterial disease based on a number of factors, including:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Advancing age
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive weight or obesity
  • High cholesterol


4. Know how to prevent arterial diseases.

While some of the risk factors associated with arterial diseases are hereditary, such as a history of arterial diseases in the family, other risks can be managed. Making changes in your lifestyle, including your diet and exercise habits can also help.

  • Be active physically. Start with a thirty-minute walk three times per week.  Increase your physical activity as appropriate and seek help from a health professional to learn ways that you can safely increase your activity level.
  • Following the recommendations for screening and talk to your doctor about any of the symptoms listed above.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods that will include reducing the fat, increasing vegetables, and getting heart-healthy oils into your diet.  
  • If you currently smoke, create a plan to quit and get support from your doctor as well as other important people in your life.  
  • If you’re overweight or obese, create a plan with your doctor to create a manageable approach to losing weight.


5. Know the treatment options.

A visit with a vascular specialist can point you to the right treatment option, which is often a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Medication may also be an option for treatment, depending on how much the arterial disease has developed. Seeking treatment earlier will keep more options open and reduce the impact of arterial disease.

Understanding the different types of arterial disease can help you know which symptoms to look for and can prevent worsening disease and lead to early intervention and treatment. If you are concerned about your risk of arterial disease, or are exhibiting symptoms described in this article, contact Virginia Interventional and Vascular Associates at (540) 654-9118.

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