Vascular screening allows you to be proactive about your health. Screening can be helpful for identifying vascular health issues that may otherwise go undetected. Vascular screening is a key component in stroke prevention and recognizing potential life-threatening ailments such as an abdominal aortic aneurysm or peripheral vascular disease. When these are diagnosed early-on, serious future health complications can be prevented.
Should I Have Vascular Screening Done?
If you are a member of a group that is at-risk of vascular disease, you should consult with your doctor about whether screening is recommended for you. This includes:
- Age greater than 50
- History of diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Obesity or physical inactivity
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
- Family history of stroke
- Coronary artery disease or heart disease
If you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, leg pain, difficulty walking, or chest pain, you should report that to your doctor who can recommend appropriate tests.
Types of Vascular Screening
Screening for vascular disease is done through painless ultrasound. Typical screening tests include:
- Carotid ultrasound: Measures blockages in the two main arteries to the brain. This test is recommended for people with high blood pressure and can be vital in diagnosing stroke risk.
- Aortic ultrasound: Measures the size of the aorta, a major artery located in the stomach area. This test is vital in diagnosing an abdominal aortic aneurysm and recommended for people 65 and older, particularly those who have ever smoked.
- Ankle brachial index (ABI): Measures blood pressure using cuffs on the arms and above the ankles to diagnose peripheral artery disease (PAD); a hardening of the arteries that can lead to various vascular related health issues.
How Can I Manage My Vascular Screening Results?
Once screening indicates risk factors or the presence of vascular disease, management and treatment centers on risk elimination or the prevention of further progression.
- Smoking cessation therapy via counseling, support groups, or medication that impacts the neurotransmitter, dopamine, such as varenicline (Chantix)
- Weight management initiated by a registered/certified dietitian/nutritionist to implement a legitimate diet with realistic goals
- Treatment of hypertension with diet and exercise, and if necessary, antihypertensive medication
- Treatment of dyslipidemia with diet and exercise and if necessary, statin medications
- Strict glycemic control for Types 1 and 2 diabetics and addressing insulin resistance with metformin
- Anticoagulation/antiplatelet therapy for vascular disease involving risk of stroke or deep vein thrombosis
- Continued aggressive surveillance via frequent visits, blood work, and diagnostic imaging
How Can I Prevent Cardiovascular Disease?
Prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is best accomplished by the adhering to the established threshold used for screening, which includes those at high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD):
- Age >50
- Metabolic syndrome
- Hypertension and its risk factors, obesity and dyslipidemia
- Family history of stroke, coronary artery disease, or cardiac events
As such, prevention is via:
- Lipid testing
- Management of hypertension by diet, exercise, and when necessary, antihypertensive medication
- Smoking cessation and/or elimination of all tobacco products.
- Weight management
- Diagnostic imaging for atherosclerosis, thrombus/embolus, aneurysm, etc
- Electrocardiography, cardiac ultrasonography, and stress testing