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Vascular Screenings Available

Failing to pay attention to your vascular health could lead to potentially life-threatening conditions, including “silent” blood clots that travel through the bloodstream into the heart or lungs. If you?re over 60, making time for three simple vascular screening tests could save your life.

Most people don’t understand how their vascular health can affect the body. People understand the risks associated with blockages in heart vessels, but the reality is that blockages in the vessels leading to your brain and legs can be just as harmful.

The human vascular system is a complex arrangement of vessels that carry blood to specific parts of the body. Arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart, distribute blood throughout the body. Veins, smaller vessels, return blood to the heart.

Vascular problems occur when fat and cholesterol (plaque) build up on the artery walls. As plaque increases, the arteries harden and become narrow. Gradually, blood flow decreases and parts of the body are deprived of the oxygen they need to function properly.

Screening Tests

People need to take steps to improve their vascular health and get screening tests when it?s appropriate. Detecting vascular disease early can help prevent serious problems, like stroke or crippling leg pain, in the future.

Three of the most common non-cardiac vascular diseases can be detected through screening tests and then treated with minimally invasive surgery techniques. These diseases are:

The tests, which combined take about 15 minutes, include

  • A carotid artery ultrasound to detect blockages in the vessels that feed blood to the brain
  • An abdominal aorta ultrasound to identify aneurysms or “bulges” that indicate vessel weakness
  • An ankle blood pressure test to detect blockages in the legs

All the tests are noninvasive, so you’ll experience no pain or discomfort. But you?ll leave armed with information about your vascular health.

Keep in Mind

A person’s risk for vascular disease is influenced by family history and it increases with age. Also at elevated risk are diabetics and people who are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have ever smoked.

According to the American Vascular Association, more than 15,000 Americans die of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms each year. People with peripheral arterial disease are three times more likely than the average person to die of heart attacks or strokes.

This article originally appeared in UC Health Line (9/20/2007), a service of the Academic Health Center Public Relations Department and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

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