The vascular system is the body’s network of blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. It includes the arteries, veins and capillaries. Any problem that develops in this network of blood vessels is a vascular disease. Vascular disease can cause severe disability and death.
Atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, can silently and slowly block arteries, putting blood flow at risk. It is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease (which affect blood vessels outside of the heart and brain).
Factors that increase your risk of developing vascular disease include:
- Obesity (a body mass index over 30)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Increasing age, especially after reaching 50 years of age
- A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease or stroke