Your heart transports oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout your body via the circulatory system, which consists of arteries and veins. Your blood vessels become smaller in size the farther they are from your heart. Problems occurring within the blood vessels interfere with circulation and can wreak havoc upon your brain, heart, limbs or any part of your body in which the affected blood vessels are located.
Blood Vessel Diseases
Blood vessel diseases belong to one of two categories, according to HealthandAge.com's article, “Small Vessel Disease.” Peripheral artery diseases impair the circulation of oxygenated blood depriving your body tissues and organs of the vital nutrients needed to function properly. Peripheral venous diseases affect the vessels carrying deoxygenated blood back to your heart.
According to The Stroke Association, high blood pressure causes the walls of your arteries to thicken, making you more susceptible to atherosclerotic plaque buildup inside the blood vessels. Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine reports that obstructions caused by deposits in arterial walls can block blood supply to the brain resulting in a stroke and cellular death, or necrosis. Additional contributing factors in blood vessel disease are white matter lesions on the brain caused by hypoperfusion (reduced blood supply resulting from tissue damage), aneurisms (weakened areas of blood vessel walls that can rupture), smoking, diabetes, high blood lipids (fats) and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the smaller arteries).
According to a study reported in the Oxford Journals, symptoms of this disease include a decline in the ability to process information, memory problems, behavioral changes, dementia, brain atrophy (associated with Alzheimer’s disease) and cerebral infarction (stroke).
If you are overweight, reduce blood pressure by losing weight. A reduction in alcohol consumption and salt also aid in weight loss. Lowering cholesterol helps reduce coronary disease and blood vessel disease. Decrease your consumption of saturated fats and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Smoking cessation also reduces possible damage to your heart and blood vessels. MayoClinic.com recommends walking 30 minutes per day as part of a regular exercise regimen to improve heart function and arterial blood flow.
According to MayoClinic.com, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors widen blood vessels by preventing your body’s production of angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes a narrowing of blood vessels and elevates blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers dilate blood vessels by relaxing the muscles inside the vessel walls. They also help to keep calcium out of your heart cells and blood vessel walls. Other drugs used to treat small blood vessel disease include anti-clotting medication, blood pressure and diabetes drugs and medications used to lower cholesterol.
Small vessel disease is progressive according to the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, but this area requires further research as not enough conclusive data exists. However, long-term medications, diet and lifestyle changes can treat this disease and alleviate its symptoms, according to HealthandAge.com.