Vascular Health: Your Questions Answered

Patients often don’t fully understand the vascular system and how to look after their vascular health. Hopefully, these few questions will provide introductory guidance. For more information, speak to a vascular surgeon in Melbourne.

Vascular Health: Your Questions Answered

There are many factors that affect your vascular health. Some you can control, like diet and lifestyle. Others are more difficult to stay on top of, like your genetic predisposition to developing particular diseases. Whatever the root cause of your vascular concerns, a vascular surgeon can certainly help.

Patients often don’t fully understand the vascular system and how to look after their vascular health. Hopefully, these few questions will provide introductory guidance. For more information, speak to a vascular surgeon in Melbourne.

What makes up the vascular system?

The vascular system is also known as the circulatory system and it includes a number of different components.

The heart is the main organ of this system (indeed, the whole body) and it’s responsible for pumping your blood and other important fluids around the body. These substances travel in two different types of vessels — arteries and veins. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to our muscles, tissues, and organs. Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. The vascular system also includes capillaries, which are tiny vessels that link arteries and veins.

As is the case with all body systems, the vascular system does not act in isolation. The digestive system and urinary system both rely on the vascular system to carry out their own essential functions.

What types of conditions affect the vascular system?

Conditions that affect the vascular system range from being mere cosmetic concerns to life-threatening. Some are linked to lifestyle whilst others are caused by genetic factors.

Typical vascular conditions that affect everyday Australians include:

  • Spider veins
  • Varicose veins
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Venous/arterial ulcers
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cerebrovascular disease (eg. stroke)
  • Aneurysms
  • Peripheral vascular disease

Vascular conditions often occur as a result of diseases affecting other parts of the body. Diabetes, for example, often causes significant vascular problems and may even result in amputation.

Don’t vascular conditions mainly affect old people?

The simple answer to this question is no. Vascular conditions can affect people of any age, gender, and background. From elite sportspeople through to the frail and the elderly — everyone needs to be aware of how their vascular health can impact their life.

There are certain risk factors that will exacerbate the likelihood of developing a vascular condition. This is true of all diseases, from spider veins to coronary artery disease. Poor diet, lack of exercise, long periods of time spent sitting or standing, smoking, and pre-existing medical conditions can all result in vascular disease.

How can I take care of my vascular health?

To start with, it’s important to note that some vascular conditions are genetically linked, meaning that even lifestyle changes may not prevent you from being affected. If you know your family has a history of high blood pressure, for example,  it’s a good idea to proactively speak with your doctor about the likelihood that you too will develop this condition.

Generally speaking, the following strategies should help most people protect the health of their heart, veins, and arteries.

  • Eating a healthy diet: Avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol — these will lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Whole, natural foods like fresh fruit and veggies, lean meats, and grains should form the basis of your diet.
  • Getting plenty of exercise: You don’t have to run a marathon but aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week will do wonders for your vascular health, as well as your overall well being.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking: Drinking alcohol is okay in moderation but smoking can cause significant damage to your veins and arteries.
  • Avoid sitting and standing for long periods of time: Some conditions, like varicose veins, are exacerbated by sitting and standing for long periods of time. If you work in an occupation where this is required, try to make subtle lifestyle adjustments.

I have spider veins — should I be worried?

Spider veins tend to be a cosmetic concern for most patients. They don’t look great and many will want to have them removed, but they are rarely cause for significant concern. Of course, a vascular surgeon will be able to provide tailored advice.

I’m concerned about my vascular health — who can I go to?

Your first call should be to your general practitioner, who will be able to assess your problem and determine whether you would benefit from specialist assistance. If they believe you need help beyond what they can provide, they will be able to provide you with a reference to a vascular surgeon in Melbourne.