Vascular Disease Displays Distinct Symptoms
Vascular disease can build up over time. Years of poor eating habits, elevated cholesterol levels and lack
of physical activity may lead to a hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of vascular disease.
"Some ways to prevent vascular disease are to avoid smoking, eat a varied and healthy diet, stay in good physical condition and keep blood pressure levels under control," advises Rodeen Rahbar, MD.
There are three main types of vascular disease: heart, or cardiovascular, disease; brain, or cerebrovascular, disease; and leg, or peripheral, vascular disease. Symptoms differ depending on where the disease is located.
While a mild degree of coronary atherosclerosis does not cause symptoms, more severe cases may result in chest pain or exertion that settles within a few minutes of rest. A heart attack occurs after any of the arteries supplying the heart get blocked and the part of the heart muscle deprived of blood dies.
Those at risk for cardiovascular disease should be aware of heavy or tight chest pain, sometimes also experienced in the throat or left arm. If the pain does not settle within 20 minutes, a doctor or
paramedic should assess it.
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Strokes occur when clots block
narrowed arteries in the brain,
or when smaller diseased arteries
may rupture and bleed into the
brain. Stroke symptoms may be
sudden and include the following:
weakness or numbness of the
face, arm or leg — especially on
one side of the body; confusion
or difficulty speaking or
understanding; problems with
vision, such as dimness or loss
of vision in one or both eyes;
dizziness or problems with
balance or coordination; problems
with movement or walking; and
severe headaches with no other
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Atherosclerosis can manifest itself as cramping pain in the leg muscles after exertion that settles after a few minutes' rest. The pain is the result of leg muscles not receiving enough blood for the physical effort needed.
Early on, the pain usually occurs in the calves with a particular walking distance but re-emerges after five to 10 minutes rest. More advanced disease may be associated with constant pain at rest and more acute symptoms.