The Link Between Heart and Vascular Diseases: It's About Blood Flow

An unobstructed flow of nutrient-rich blood is necessary for preventing both heart and vascular diseases, and it is the vital link they share.

Vascular disease covers any condition that affects the circulatory system. Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is the most commonly diagnosed vascular disease.

Common symptoms of PAD are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles, especially when walking or climbing stairs. The pain most likely goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.

PAD and coronary artery disease (CAD) are similar in that both are caused by narrowed and blocked arteries in various critical regions of the body. Heart disease is the result of CAD.

The good news is that both PAD and heart disease can be diagnosed early.

“The risk factors for both PAD and coronary heart disease are much the same,” said Barry Katzen, Founder and Medical Director at Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and unhealthy levels of cholesterol can contribute to both heart and vascular disease.”

Vascular disease can range from diseases of your arteries, veins, and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Conditions that fall under the category of vascular disease include peripheral artery disease, aneurysms, renal artery disease, varicose veins, blood clots in the veins, other blood clotting disorders and lymphedema.

Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, is a condition in which the heart cannot efficiently pump blood. CAD is usually the most common barrier to the efficient flow of the blood supply.

CAD occurs when the arteries that nourish the heart muscle narrow or become blocked. This can lead to a heart attack.

People with diabetes have a higher risk than the general population for developing heart disease. Other risk factors include high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.

There are certain risk factors that you can’t control, such as aging, a family history and birth defects, that contribute to coronary artery disease.

“If you live a healthy lifestyle – one that includes weight management; eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains; regular exercise; and regular check-ups – then you are well on the road to preventing and combating heart disease,” said Dr. Alan Seifer, a family medicine physician at Baptist Health Medical Group.

Keeping other risk factors in check is also vital, Seifer said. That includes regular check-ups to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol readings and blood-sugar levels.

Healthier eating, regular exercise and less stress are essential.

“While there are no guarantees, these factors can help you live a much healthier life, improving physical and emotional well-being,” Seifer said.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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