Home » Cardiology » How self-help solutions can prevent the development of vascular diseases

Rachel Bell

Consultant Vascular Surgeon and Chair, Circulation Foundation

Simple steps and lifestyle changes can play an important role in reducing the risk of developing a vascular disease.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common condition where the main blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other areas of the body get furred up and blocked.

While there are surgical solutions, including non-invasive procedures to unblock or open up narrowed arteries and veins carrying blood around the body, surgeons say patients can take action to avoid the disease.

Common condition

Rachel Bell is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne and Chair of the Circulation Foundation. Miss Bell looks after patients with a wide range of vascular conditions that affect people’s veins and arteries.

Often an early symptom of PAD in the legs is cramping pain in the calf muscle when walking, this usually happens because the main artery in the thigh is blocked and when you move, the calf muscle does not get enough blood. “This condition is called claudication and can be a forerunner to more serious arterial disease or circulation in the leg,” says Miss Bell.

Risk factors for PAD include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Risk factors

Risk factors for PAD include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. However, patients can reduce their risk by not smoking, having blood pressure and cholesterol checks, eating a balanced diet and getting diabetes under control with weight loss or medication.

“Family history can also be a risk factor,” says Miss Bell. “If a parent has had a stroke, aortic aneurysm, or arterial disease, people need to be aware they are at a slightly higher risk because often these conditions have a genetic element.”

Treatment options

Treatments are continually evolving, along with technology to treat vascular disease, but exercise will help patients improve their condition. Miss Bell explains: “Exercise can develop smaller blood vessels around blockages and enables people to walk further and prevent their condition getting worse.”

Patient support and information

The Circulation Foundation aims to support patients with PAD by providing information and education about their disease. It also works to increase public awareness and fundraises to help research the condition.

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