At Vascular Associates of WNY, we take vascular health seriously, but why is this system so important?
Also called the circulatory system or cardiovascular system, the vascular system is comprised of vessels that allow blood to circulate and deliver nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, blood cells, and hormones throughout the body. This system includes arteries, veins, and capillaries.
Arteries are the largest vessel, and they carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Fatty substances, called plaque, can build up in the wall of the arteries, called atherosclerosis. This can lead to peripheral artery disease or coronary artery disease. Veins carry blood back to the heart. Think of the system of blood vessels like a tree. The trunk of the tree is the main artery, the aorta, which branches into large arteries. Those large arteries lead to smaller and smaller vessels; the smallest arteries end in a network of tiny vessels, which is the capillary network.
The vascular system also includes the lymphatic system. This is a network of lymphatic vessels, lymph capillaries, lymph nodes, lymphatic tissues, and it circulates lymph.
Importance of the vascular system
Most people have heard of heart disease, which typically happens when there are blockages in the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. However, blockages from a buildup of plaque can harm more than vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, and blockages can cause vascular diseases. The most common vascular diseases are peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Plaque buildup can cause the arteries to harden and narrow, which means it’s more difficult for blood and oxygen to move throughout the body. Plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the heart is coronary artery disease, while plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs is called peripheral artery disease. If you have one of these diseases, you are at a higher risk of the other, because plaque buildup can occur throughout the major arteries in the body.
Some risk factors are non-controllable, such as age, gender, and genetics. However, some risk factors for vascular diseases are controllable. These include lifestyle factors, such as exercise, diet, and tobacco use.
If you feel you are at risk for vascular disease, contact our offices.