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How Heart Disease Can Cause Vascular Difficulties
Omar P. Haqqani, MD
Midland Daily News
February 26, 2017
Aneurysm, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and renal artery stenosis – all of these conditions affecting the vascular system have the potential to develop as a direct result of heart disease.
When it comes to the development of vascular disease as a result of other conditions, heart disease is among the most prominent of risk factors for numerous vascular conditions.
Heart disease acts as an umbrella for a wide range of conditions, all of which affect the heart, including, but not limited to: Blood vessel diseases, including coronary artery disease, defects in the heart, and/or conditions that affect a heart’s rhythm, such as an arrhythmia.
Heart disease is not solely limited to these conditions, however, as it can also be classified by problems with the heart’s muscles, valves or rhythm, as well as problems with narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
While heart disease does cover a wide range of conditions, many can be prevented or treated by making the switch to a healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms for heart disease typically vary and depend largely on the specific condition – however, all cases of heart disease have telltale symptoms that can easily be recognized.
Blood vessel diseases, for example, affect the way that blood vessels transport blood all over the body by means of narrowing or blockages in the vessels, and are typically defined by chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in the neck, jaw, throat, or upper abdomen.
While these symptoms are typically universal across all patients, they can affect their hosts in different ways. For instance, men who suffer from heart disease in the blood vessels are more likely to experience chest pain, while women are more likely to experience nausea, fatigue, or shortness of breath.
Arrhythmias, caused by the heart beating irregularly, come with a multitude of symptoms, including a fluttering in the chest, a racing or slower heartbeat, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting.
Heart disease caused by heart defects typically depends on the level of severity. Serious heart defects, or ones that develop at birth, include cyanosis, or a pale gray or blue skin color, leg or abdominal swelling, or poor weight gain.
However, heart defects that arrive in the later stages of childhood or adulthood are typically not life threatening, and include shortness of breath, difficulty exercising, or swelling in the ankles, feet, or hands.
Across all of these symptoms, chest pain, fainting, or shortness of breath are the most medically alarming, where emergency medical care is necessary.
Heart disease can be caused through a variety of previously established risk factors, and also depends on which particular sect of the heart is affected.
A heart arrhythmia, for example, can be caused by a number of conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, or diabetes, as well as through preventable means, such as smoking, excess alcohol or caffeine intake, poor diet, or drug abuse.
For all heart disease, however, age, gender, and family history all play a major part in these conditions’ development.
With all of this information, the question still remains, however: How does heart disease contribute to complications within the vascular system? In order to answer this, we must first look at each vascular condition individually.
First, aortic aneurysms are bulges found in the arterial wall that, upon bursting, can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding, occurring in either the abdominal or thoracic regions of the body.
In the case of aortic aneurysms, they affect the aorta – the largest artery in the body, which helps provide oxygenated blood throughout the circulatory system.
Strokes occur when adequate blood flow can’t be achieved in the carotid arteries of the body – the two main vascular connections supplying oxygenated blood to the brain.
Peripheral vascular disease, otherwise known as atherosclerosis, is a condition that causes hardening of the arteries as plaque builds up inside the inner walls of the arteries.
Renal artery stenosis, in a lot of ways, hold similarities to these conditions – the difference being that the kidney’s aren’t able to be supplied with oxygenated blood, as opposed to the brain or blood vessels.
Though the potential risk of developing vascular disease as a result of heart disease is daunting, there are many treatment options available for those suffering from the latter, largely dependent on the particular type of condition.
In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as eating a diet low in fat and sodium, actively engaging in 30 minutes of daily exercise, and/or quitting smoking, are often enough to control conditions.
In more severe cases, however, medication, medical procedures or surgery may be recommended – both of which are dependent on the type and severity of the disease.
Though heart disease is a difficult condition to live with, and can be daunting to accept, given that related conditions cause over 600,000 deaths per year, it’s important to recognize that numerous treatment options are available for nearly all forms of the disease.
With a little help from your medical doctor and/or vascular specialist, heart disease doesn’t have to affect the vascular system as well.
Dr. Omar P. Haqqani is the chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Vascular Health Clinics in Midland.
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