How Does Age Play a Factor in Vascular Disease?


Being aware of the effects of aging

As the years pass, and our age naturally increases, many are familiar with the effects that coincide with getting older. Dealing with weight gain, differences in appearance, and noticeable changes to aspects of our lives, such as drier skin, foods tasting or smelling different than usual, are all relatively well-known effects of getting older. Having said that, an aspect of getting older that many aren't as familiar with are the numerous vascular conditions that one can develop. At varying ages, a prevalent risk factor for the development of vascular disease is age. However, it isn't until someone reaches a particular age range that this risk factor becomes a serious threat or concern to one's health. Because of this, we will discuss below the various ages that vascular conditions can become more prominent.


Typically between the ages of 30-70, varicose and/or spider veins tend to develop. Over time, blood can pool in the leg veins of the body, causing the blood vessels to stretch. Due to this stretching, the inner wall of the veins can weaken, damaging the valves, and causing varicose and spider veins to form. Varicose veins are visible through the skin as bulging, bluish twisted veins, while spider veins are much milder - a small collection of red, blue, and purple lines under the skin. Typically diagnosed through a physical examination to determine the texture and color of the veins, as well as how they fill with blood, spider and varicose veins are, luckily, very treatable, and often times, surgical intervention isn't necessary.


At the age of 50, age begins to act as a serious risk factor towards the development of peripheral vascular disease and stroke. As the aging process progresses, people are naturally put at a higher risk of developing PVD, otherwise known as atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. Through this condition, plaque builds along the inner walls of arteries, due to the increasing presence of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, otherwise known as the "bad" cholesterol), causing interrupted blood flow in arteries. As a result, if one or both carotid arteries (the vascular connection to the brain) become partially or completely blocked, stroke has the potential to occur as well.


Thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysm have a more likely chance of developing in patients that are 55-65+ years of age, respectively. For those unaware, the aorta is the largest artery in the body, carrying blood directly from the heart and branching to all other major arteries, spreading all over the body. The aorta is located in the chest, and made up of three major segments: The ascending aorta, aortic arch, and descending aorta. When any of these aortic segments balloon or bulge, it means an aortic aneurysm has taken place, with the specific name of "abdominal" or "thoracic" referring to which section the aneurysm specifically affects. If left untreated or unmonitored, the aortic aneurysm eventually reaches a point to where it loses its ability to stretch any further, resulting in rupture, which can cause life-threatening bleeding.