By Kirstin Rizk
February is National Heart Month, so regardless of your age or health status, take a moment to appreciate all that your heart and arteries do for you! This is the month to focus on your cardiovascular health as a whole.
You know the importance of the heart and that you need it to work properly in order to keep you alive. But the heart would have nowhere to push blood without arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from inside your heart to every part of your body. Without the arteries carrying blood from your heart, you would not be able to supply oxygen and nutrients to your other vital organs or the limbs that allow you to experience your day to day life as you do.
You’ve likely heard of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), the most common heart disease. Your heart is a muscle, so just like any other muscle, it needs oxygen to stay alive. The coronary arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the heart to keep it alive and functioning. If these arteries are blocked, due to plaque and/or inflammation, you may feel symptoms of your heart needing oxygen. This presents as chest pain and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, sometimes, you may have CAD causing strain on your heart and arteries for many years before you become aware of it. Some are not aware that they have CAD until the arteries bringing blood to the heart muscle become completely blocked and they have a heart attack. Those who have no symptoms are not getting the treatment and medication they need to keep their blood flowing smoothly, which puts them at high risk for heart attack and stroke.
The rest of your arteries, called peripheral arteries, deliver blood to every other part of your body. Peripheral arteries can become blocked the same way that coronary arteries do (because of plaque and/or inflammation) and this is called Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Just as pain sometimes occurs in the heart when it is starved of oxygen, pain can occur in other parts of the body, especially the legs, when starved of oxygen. This usually occurs during exercise, called intermittent claudication. Other symptoms include leg weakness or numbness, slow or non-healing wounds, discoloration of the foot or feet, and one foot cooler than the other, among other symptoms.
However, just like with CAD, many patients are unaware that they have PAD. In fact, more than half of people with PAD are asymptomatic1 though they too are at a higher heart attack, stroke, and death, as well as amputation.
This is why it is so important to take steps toward a healthier cardiovascular system. This includes eating heart healthy (less salt, processed foods, added sugars, and red meat), exercising, smoking cessation, regular checkups with your doctor, and perhaps most importantly, paying close attention to your body. If you notice any changes or discomfort, your body may be trying to tell you something important so it is crucial to note these changes and see your doctor soon.
To evaluate your risk of CAD, speak with your primary care doctor who may refer you to a cardiologist.
To evaluate your risk of PAD, Modern Vascular has Patient Advocates at the ready to answer your phone call and screen you today. Call Modern Vascular at (888) 853-1278.
The earlier you catch CAD or PAD, the better your outcomes are likely to be.