Peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis are three of the most common circulatory issues Americans face today. Circulatory disorders place a significant burden on your health.
With heart disease remaining the No. 1 cause of death among adults in the United States, it’s wise to find ways to prevent circulatory problems. This month, the CA Heart and Vein Specialists team offers some practical tips for keeping your blood vessels healthy and keeping problems at bay.
Understanding circulatory problems
Healthy blood vessels are soft and flexible. This allows blood to flow easily through them as your heart pumps blood throughout your body to your organs and tissues.
Atherosclerosis is hardening and narrowing of the arteries. A prominent feature of heart disease, this circulatory problem occurs when the endothelium — the thin layer of cells on the inside surface of blood vessels — becomes damaged. This sets the stage for the problems that follow.
Once the endothelium sustains damage, plaque begins to form and causes hardening and narrowing that puts a strain on your circulatory system. The plaque that forms also can break off and cause blockages that lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The narrowing caused by plaque accumulation increases the risk of other circulatory problems like peripheral artery disease. PAD occurs when narrowed arteries can’t supply enough blood to your limbs. This results in leg cramping, numbness, and leg weakness upon exertion.
Plaque accumulation is at the heart of many circulatory problems, making preventing endothelial damage and plaque buildup a top priority in keeping your circulatory system healthy. Here’s how.
1. Keep LDL cholesterol levels low
Elevated LDL levels — the “bad” cholesterol — is a major risk factor in plaque accumulation. Keeping your level of this fat-like substance below 100 mg/dL in your blood is vital. Staying below 80 mg/dL is even more beneficial. Changing your eating habits is one of the best ways to keep LDL within a healthy range.
Of all food components, saturated fat causes the most dramatic increase in LDL levels in your blood. Cutting back on how much saturated fat you consume is a cornerstone of managing your cholesterol.
Slashing your intake of fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy is a good place to start. Baked goods can also contain excess saturated fat. Shifting the focus to vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats goes a long way in reducing your saturated fat intake.
2. Get moving
If you’re a couch potato, there’s good reason to put down the remote and get your body moving. Exercise has a profound impact in reducing the risk of chronic disease, including circulatory problems. Here are just a few circulatory benefits of getting enough physical activity:
- A stronger heart muscle
- Increased blood flow
- Slowed progression of PAD
- More flexible blood vessels
- Reduced plaque formation
- Improved vein function
You see these benefits when you get the recommended 250 minutes of exercise weekly, or more. So 50 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week is a good place to start. Walking is an excellent way to begin, and you get the same benefits if you break that goal into two 25-minute walks.
3. Slim down
Weight gain and circulatory problems often go hand in hand. As your weight rises, so do your cholesterol and blood pressure levels — both of which damage your arteries when elevated. Patients with circulatory issues are more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) that places them in the overweight or obese category.
Talk to your doctor about strategies to bring your BMI within a normal range if you’re overweight. Adopting a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise are cornerstones of weight management.
Without intervention, circulatory issues can become worse and increase your risk of complications. Keep in mind that preventing or reversing plaque accumulation takes time and dedication to sustaining healthier habits.
For the best in circulatory care, call the Huntington Beach, California, office of CA Heart and Vein Specialists to schedule an appointment. Or book online at your convenience.