It’s the time of year when we make new year’s resolutions to do better. As you think about the promises you’ll make to yourself for 2020, why not put your vascular health first? After all, when you put your health first, not only are you doing something for yourself, but you’re helping your loved ones, too. They’ll be overjoyed to see you become healthier, happier and more active. Remember it is never to late to make improvements to your health.
Why is it time to think about your cardiovascular health? Cardiovascular disease affects thousands of adults in New Zealand. Left untreated it can put patients at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, ischemic (reduced blood flow) limbs or death. Unfortunately, there are often no symptoms in the early stages of disease and when they do surface, they may seem more like annoying niggles than real warning signs.
1. MAINTAIN GOOD BLOOD PRESSURE CONTROL
High blood pressure can cause considerable damage to the walls of your arteries. The exertion of increased force can cause microscopic tears in your artery walls, that turn into scar tissue. Scar tissue provides a scaffold for fat, cholesterol and other substances to build up.
The hardening and narrowing of the arteries also results in blockages, which can lead to the fatty deposits flicking off and causing a heart attack or stroke.
2. GET YOUR CHOLESTEROL CHECKED
As mentioned, high cholesterol can lead to deposition of fats into the artery wall. “This cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, combines with other substances to form plaque in the artery walls. This plaque build-up causes progressive narrowing and eventually blockage in blood vessels supplying the organs in the body. This can lead to a stroke, heart attack, and problems with your lower limb circulation” (Dr Lupe Taumeopleau).
What could happen if i don’t check my cholesterol levels? In some cases, the plaque eventually, breaks open. If this happens, platelets gather in the affected area and can stick together, forming blood clots. This can block the artery, leading to life-threatening complications, such as critical limb ischemia, strokes or a heart attack.
3. STOP SMOKING (OR CONTINUE NOT TO)
Apart from severely impacting your lung capacity, smoking can cause some serious damage to your arteries. The toxins in cigarette smoke can damage their internal lining.
4. GET TESTED FOR DIABETES
According to The Ministry of Health, diabetes is New Zealand’s fastest growing health issue. They warn that there are more than 240,000 people in New Zealand who have been diagnosed with diabetes and a further 100,000 are yet to be diagnosed. The high sugar levels and hormone imbalances diabetes sufferers experience can lead to hardening of the arteries.
5. GET SCREENED FOR AORTIC ABDOMINAL ANEURYSM
Because the aorta is the body’s main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.
Symptoms: AAAs often grow slowly and very often there are no symptoms. An aneurysm may start small and stay small or expand quickly. Predicting how fast it may grow is difficult. Once diagnosed (ultrasound) the patient will be put on a vascular ultrasound surveillance schedule. Being screened involves a painless, ultrasound scan that will ensure there is no weakness or expansion of your aortic artery. In other words, it should be on every over-60s to-do list, especially if you’re a smoker, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
6. MAINTAIN VASCULAR HEALTH WHILE TRAVELLING
Travelling can take a toll on our wallets, patience, and indeed our cardiovascular wellbeing. The dehydration that occurs on a long plane or car journey can cause your blood to thicken, which increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), that can lead to a blood clots. To avoid this, we recommend you wear compression stockings, move every hour during your trip and drink plenty of water.
What makes a compression sock different to a normal sock? Compression socks are made from a special snug elastic hosiery weave that gently squeezes your leg. You will find with compression that they feel tighter around your ankle and get looser as they go up your leg. Compression of the calf muscle – helping your blood return to your heart, is what makes a compression sock different to a normal sock. We sell a selection of colours and styles. Please click here to book a free fitting today.
7. GET YOUR VARICOSE VEINS TREATED
Don’t dismiss your varicose veins as purely a cosmetic issue. Getting these treated will prevent the risk of developing ulcers or developing DVT. Dr JK Wicks warns that it’s especially important for over-60s to pay attention to your vein health. “The valves in the veins in your legs also relax with age, causing blood to pool. This can lead to leg swelling, discomfort and increase your risk of leg ulcers and blood clots.”
What are Varicose veins? Abnormally enlarged veins that appear most often on the legs. They are typically blue or skin-coloured, and appear as twisting, bulging vessels. They are a very common problem, and affect up to 40% of women and 30% of men. Many people consider varicose veins as only a cosmetic condition, but left untreated, the disease can progress to chronic venous insufficiency.
Additionally, it will help with aching or tired legs, which may be stopping you from exercising.
8. Don’t ignore pain, swelling & cold hands or feet
- Leg pain: This can be the most common symptom of atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries) in the lower limbs is leg pain; This is often called claudication. Pain on rest or walking. This is diagnosed by a painless non invasive ultrasound scan.
- Odema: Swelling of fluid in your tissues. Often this occurs in the feet, ankles and/or legs. It can be a sign of many health conditions including venous insufficiency (varicose veins).
- Cold, painful hands or feet: This type of sensation in hands or feet could be caused by not enough blood reaching your extremities. This can be a sign of a narrowing or blockage in the arteries.
- Pain in the buttocks or thighs: This can be a sign of narrowing or blockages in more central vessels such as the aorta (which goes through the abdomen) or the artery in your thigh (iliac). Pain mostly occurs on activity.
- If you experience any of these symptoms, please go to your GP for initial investigations.
9. REDUCE YOUR SALT CONSUMPTION
Salt is important to the body as it helps your kidneys retain water, maintains circulation and assists the heart in pumping oxygenated blood. However, eating too much of it disrupts the delicate balance and reduces the kidneys’ ability to remove water. The resulting extra fluid and strain on your blood vessels causes high blood pressure and damage to your blood vessels.
10. STAY ACTIVE
According to the Heart Foundation, being physically inactive increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50 per cent. By exercising for just 30 minutes a day, you can lower your risk of high-blood pressure, stress, tensions, depression and anxiety and maintain a healthy weight.
11. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
As well as exercising, to maintain a healthy weight you should eat a balanced, healthy, low-fat diet. The key is avoiding trans fats, as they increase your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol. “Check food labels for trans fats or hydrogenated oils, as eating these increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke,” he explains. Examples of food that contain trans fats include fried foods like doughnuts, cakes, frozen pizza and so on.
Making a new year’s resolution to improve your health, of course, is a very personal process, we hope you find some helpful options you may want to consider in this blog. For more information contact Specialist Vein Health at svh.co.nz.