Maintaining Good Vascular Health
Five Most Important Things You can do to Maintain Good Vascular Health
The vascular system is made up of arteries and veins that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body to the vital organs, the brains, and the legs. As we age, our arteries tend to thicken with a buildup of plaque and cholesterol, get stiffer, and narrow. When blood flow is restricted, vascular disease like carotid artery disease can lead to stroke; peripheral artery disease can lead to problems walking and in the most advanced cases, foot ulcers, gangrene, and possible amputation; and abdominal aortic aneuryism can result in death if not treated early.
These five practices are not new, but with so many people reaching senior status, it is important to remember the positive impact they can have on their vascular health:
Eat a healthy, low fat diet
Maintain good cholesterol/glucose levels (yearly checks with your GP)
Take care of their blood pressure to keep it in a normal range
Exercise regularly (see below) - even a moderate walking program can be effective
People aged 55 and older should talk with their primary care physician about their vascular health. Painless, noninvasive tests can determine if there are blockages in a patient's neck or leg arteries or if there is aneurysm formation in the aorta. If there is an indication of blockage, patients should seek treatment imediately. Vascular disease can be controlled if diagnosed and treated early. Vascular surgeons treat these diseases with lifestyle changes, medical management, minimally invasive endovascular angioplasty and stent procedures, and open bypass surgery.
Eat a healthy diet
This is the same as advised to prevent heart disease. This reduces the chance of atheroma forming. A practice nurse may advise you on how to eat a healthy diet. .
Briefly, a healthy diet means:
At least five portions, and ideally 7-9 portions, of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day.
You should not eat much fatty food such as fatty meats, cheeses, full-cream milk, fried food, butter, etc. Ideally, you should use low-fat, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated spreads.
Try to include 2-3 portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be 'oily' (such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, salmon, or fresh tuna).
If you eat meat it is best to eat lean meat or poultry such as chicken.
If you do fry, choose a vegetable oil such as sunflower, rapeseed or olive.
Try not to add salt to food and limit foods which are salty.
Alcohol - Drinking a small or moderate amount of alcohol helps to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as PVD. That is, 1-2 units per day - which is up to 14 units per week. Drinking more than 15 units per week does not reduce the risk, and drinking more than the recommended upper limits can be harmful. That is, men should drink no more than 21 units per week (and no more than four units in any one day). Women should drink no more than 14 units per week (and no more than three units in any one day). One unit is in about half a pint of normal strength beer, or two thirds of a small glass of wine, or one small pub measure of spirits.
Maintain good cholesterol levels.
In addition to diet and exercise, substitute all of your cooking oils like vegetable and canola for heart-healthy olive oil. Olive oil contains powerful antioxidants and can benefit your overall health when used in cooking as a substitute for canola and vegetable oil. Use olive oil to sauteed your vegetable or go to the drug store and take capsule forms daily with your vitamins. Olive oil is a great cholesterol-lowering secret that many have used for decades to promote good health.
Take care of your Blood Pressure
Reduce your salt intake. In addition to regular exercise and a healthy diet, restrict your salt intake to less than a teaspoon a day. Salt may make your food taste better, but does your heart and vascular system no good.
Regular exercise encourages small arteries in the legs to enlarge and improve the blood supply. If you exercise regularly, there is a good chance that symptoms of PVD will improve, and the distance that you can walk before pain develops will increase.
Walking is the best exercise if you have PVD. Regular exercise means a walk every day, or on most days. Walk until the pain develops, then rest for a few minutes. Carry on walking when the pain has eased. Keep this up for at least 30 minutes each day, and preferably for an hour a day. The pain is not damaging to the muscles.
Other exercises such as cycling and swimming will also help you to become fit and are good for the heart. However, these should be done in addition to walking, as walking has been shown to be the best exercise to improve symptoms of PVD.
Research studies have shown that if you stop smoking and exercise regularly, then symptoms of PVD are unlikely to become worse, and they often improve. Your risk of developing heart disease or a stroke will also be reduced.
Lose weight if you are overweight
Losing weight reduces the demands on the heart and leg muscles and reduces the risk of forming atheroma.
For Periferal vascular Disease and patients who are known diabetic:
Take care of your feet
Try not to injure your feet. Injury may lead to an ulcer or infection developing more easily if the blood supply to your feet is reduced. Do not wear tight shoes or socks which may reduce blood supply. Tell your doctor if you have any foot injury, pain in a foot when you are resting, or any marked change in skin colour or temperature in either of your feet.
For patients known to have an Aneurysm;
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