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Managing your vascular disease

  • Vascular disease

    Vascular disease is a term for a wide range of diseases that affect the vascular, or blood vessel, systems of your body. This means your arteries or veins may not be working as well as they once did.

    Vascular disease can affect important organs found in your body, such as your:

    • heart. It can cause chest pain (angina), a heart attack or heart failure.
    • brain. It can cause strokes, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also called mini-strokes, or dementia (changes in personality, behavior and memory).
    • kidneys. It can cause kidney (renal) failure. Kidney failure happens when your kidneys can no longer get rid of waste products and fluid through the urine.

    Vascular disease can also affect your limbs (arms or legs). It can cause poor circulation and skin ulcers (sores).

    Managing vascular disease

    There are important ways you can work with your health care provider to manage your vascular disease and continue to live a healthy life.

    Keep your LDL "bad" cholesterol lower than 100

    When too much LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol builds up on your artery walls, your circulation is reduced. This puts you at risk for a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or other serious problems.

    Keep your blood pressure lower than 130/80

    Blood pressure is the amount of pressure within the walls of the arteries. When this pressure is too high your heart has to work harder. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms until you have a heart attack, stroke or other problem.

    Your goal is to keep your blood pressure lower than 130/80. Your risk of problems from vascular disease goes down the more you can safely lower your blood pressure. Talk to your health care provider about the blood pressure goal that is safe for you.

    Take your medicine(s)

    Your health care provider will prescribe medicines to help control your blood pressure, lower your LDL cholesterol and prevent the risk of blood clots.

    Medicines are a very important part of managing your vascular disease and avoiding problems. You may need up to three medicines to help keep your blood pressure at a safe level.

    It is important to continue taking your medicine as directed. If you miss a dose of medicine, take it as soon as you can, and then get back to your regular dose schedule. If you don't realize you've missed a dose until it's time for the next dose, do not take a double dose.

    Call your health care provider if you are having any problems taking your medicine. You and your provider can work together on a plan that will help you be successful.

    Stop using tobacco

    Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S. Cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers, and 10 times as likely to develop peripheral artery disease (PAD).

    To reduce problems with vascular disease, your health care provider recommends that you stop using tobacco.

    There are many treatment options to help you quit tobacco use. Talk with your health care provider about the best one for you. You can also check with your insurance provider about quitting programs that may be available to you.

    Make healthy lifestyle changes

    Making healthy lifestyle changes can also help you manage your vascular disease and keep you healthy.

    • Lose weight if needed.
    • Eat a healthful diet that is low in fat and salt and high in fiber.
    • Drink no more than two alcoholic drinks each day.  
    • Be more active. A walk or bicycle ride every day  can help lower your weight and blood pressure.
    • Limit caffeine and decongestants. These can  raise your blood pressure.
    • Check your blood pressure at home regularly. Keep a log and share it with your health care provider.

    When to see your health care provider

    If your blood pressure is not lower than 130/80, you should see your health care provider every month until you have reached your goal.

    When your blood pressure is lower than 130/80, you should see your health care provider every six months. At this appointment, your provider will talk with you about:

    • how you are feeling
    • how you are doing managing your vascular disease
    • how well your organs inside your body are working