Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ischemic Vascular Disease Awareness

It is never too early to pay attention to risks associated with heart disease and stroke. High levels of cholesterol, among other factors, increase the body’s risk for ischemic vascular disease (IVD). IVD is characterized by plaque buildup in the blood vessels. The buildup results in a condition called atherosclerosis that restricts normal blood flow and can affect any artery of the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis and kidneys. The term “ischemic vascular disease” includes any of the diseases caused by plaque buildup including:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) – refers to atherosclerosis in the arteries of the heart
  • Carotid Artery Disease (CAD) – refers to plaque buildup in the arteries on either side of the neck
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) – refers to a buildup of plaque in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs and limbs

All types of IVD are caused by atherosclerosis, and there are many factors that can trigger plaque buildup in the arteries. These factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High sugar levels due to insulin resistance or diabetes
  • High amounts of fats and cholesterol in the blood

Cholesterol on its own is necessary for building new cells throughout the body, insulating nerves and producing hormones. The liver makes this necessary cholesterol, creating it in exactly the quantities that the body needs to remain healthy. When cholesterol is introduced into the body from foods, including milk, eggs and meat, it begins to stockpile in the blood and build up in the arteries. This can lead to a narrowing of the arteries, increased stress on the heart and heart disease.

Waiting for signs or symptoms of plaque buildup to occur may be life threatening as IVD typically does not cause symptoms until the artery is severely narrowed or totally blocked. The best prevention of high cholesterol and IVD is to work with a primary care physician to have cholesterol and lipid (fat) levels checked through blood tests. This will allow the physician to detect possible plaque buildup in the arteries before blood flow is impacted.

Treating IVD can be completed through medications to control blood pressure and high cholesterol or routine surgeries to remove plaque buildup. Other treatment options include smoking cessation, dietary changes, maintaining or achieving a healthy weight and incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine.

For more information about IVD and cholesterol levels, visit your primary care physician. To find a physician who is right for you, visit or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

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