The cardiovascular system is truly remarkable: It delivers life-giving oxygen to our cells, transports carbon dioxide waste to our lungs to be exhaled, carries nutrients and immune system cells wherever they’re needed, helps control body temperature and more. When we’re generally healthy, all of these functions are carried out unnoticed, but when our cardiovascular systems are in less than optimal condition, we may see the early signs in problems such as high blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol, or atherosclerosis.
What may be more difficult to detect when heart problems are being assessed are secondary vascular symptoms in the legs. As arterial and heart function decline — along with one’s overall or cumulative health — so can the condition of other parts of the vascular system. The result may be poor circulation in the legs, varicose veins, swelling, ulcers, and more.
Our patients receive a thorough assessment of their conditions from physicians with experience in arterial and venous endovascular procedures. As interventional radiologists, we treat all aspects of venous disease throughout the body, not only in the legs, and know that all of the health and lifestyle choices a patient makes affects cumulative health. These choices, which have complex interactions with age and genetics, include:
Diet — Factors that can lead to poor cumulative health, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and excessive weight, also affect the vascular system. According to the American Heart Association, nutrition plays a central role in keeping arteries and the heart healthy, and it recommends a diet based on vegetables, fruits, and grains. We encourage our patients to learn how nutrition affects vascular health and what steps they can take to improve their cumulative health through better dietary choices.
Activity — Regular exercise is essential for heart and vascular health. It improves blood vessel elasticity, lowers the resting heart rate, and increases heart mass. Exercise has such a powerful effect on the cardiovascular system that it can reduce the debilitating symptoms of heart failure. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to vascular problems in the legs, such as varicose veins and ulcers.
Stress — Research has shown that reducing stress supports cardiovascular health. While not all sources of stress in our lives can be eliminated, stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga and deep breathing, can be helpful. This is especially important as our vascular systems age and blood vessels become less elastic, since stress can cause rapid rises in blood pressure and increase heart rate.
Sleep — Recent studies highlight the role of sleep in cumulative health, finding that a lack of sleep can disrupt critical processes such as blood pressure and even put people at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Sleep deprivation may increase insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of heart disease, and even interfere with appetite regulation. Conversely, six to eight hours of restful sleep decreases the load on the heart, since heart rate and blood pressure are lower at night.
Taken together, cumulative health and our lifestyle choices have a very significant impact on vascular health. If you’re concerned about any aspect of vein disease or are experiencing symptoms of vascular problems in your legs, such as pain, unsightly veins, skin changes, or swelling, we invite you make an appointment for a free vascular health screening today.