FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is heart disease?
Heart disease—also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease—is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. Other types of heart disease include heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart valve problems.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. The most important modifiable risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity.
What can you do to reduce your risk for heart disease?
People can take steps to lower their risk of developing heart disease by preventing or treating and controlling high blood pressure, preventing or treating and controlling high blood cholesterol, by not using tobacco, by preventing or controlling diabetes, and by maintaining adequate physical activity, weight, and a healthy diet.
What is the connection between high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease?
High blood pressure occurs when very small arteries tighten. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through the smaller space and the pressure inside the vessels grows. The constant excess pressure on the artery walls weakens them making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis, or a buildup in the walls of the arteries.
How are smoking and heart disease linked?
Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, increases fatty deposits in the arteries, increases blood clotting, adversely affects blood lipid levels, and promotes coronary artery spasm. Nicotine accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure.
Is heart disease hereditary?
Heart disease can run in some families. But even if you inherit the risks factors that predispose you to heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or being overweight, there are measures you can take that will help you avoid developing cardiovascular disease.
What is vascular disease?
Most Americans are familiar with heart disease and with the consequences of blockages in the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. But few people realize that blockages caused by a buildup of plaque and cholesterol affect more than coronary arteries. Arteries throughout the body carry oxygen rich blood away from the heart, so blockages can occur in all arteries with serious effects. Three of the most recognized vascular diseases include: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Carotid Artery Disease leading to Stroke and Peripheral Arterial Disease.
Who gets vascular disease?
You are more likely to have vascular disease as you get older. Other factors that make vascular disease more likely include:
- Family history of vascular or heart diseases
- Illness or injury
- Long periods of sitting or standing still
- Any condition that affects the heart and blood vessels, such as diabetes or high cholesterol
Losing weight, eating healthy foods, being active and not smoking can help vascular disease. Other treatments include medicines and surgery.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted, blue veins that are close to the surface of the skin. Because valves in the veins are damaged, they hold more blood at higher pressure than normal. That forces fluid into the surrounding tissue, making the leg swell and feel heavy.
Unsightly and uncomfortable, varicose veins can cause swelling in the ankles and feet and itching of the skin. They may occur in almost any part of the leg but are most often seen in the back of the calf or on the inside of the leg between the groin and the ankle. Left untreated by a vascular surgeon, patient symptoms are likely to worsen, possibly leading to ulceration.
When should I talk to my doctor?
The sooner a vascular problem is detected, the more opportunity you have to correct it. Diagnostics is the key to catching problems early. Some conditions can be treated with therapy and/or medications. A vascular surgeon is the only type of physician who can perform all treatment options surgical and non surgical, including minimally invasive endovascular procedures, angioplasty, atherectomy, stent procedures, and open surgical repairs such as bypass operations.