Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), sometimes also referred to as peripheral arterial disease, is a term applied to a variety of problems relating to the circulation of blood throughout the body. Blood brings fresh oxygen to all our muscles and tissues with every heartbeat, and if the movement of the blood to and from the heart is impaired, the tissues suffer from oxygen deprivation. Here is the information you need about the causes of PVD and what you can do to control or prevent it:
Causes of peripheral vascular disease
Most often, PVD originates with a narrowing of blood vessels, due to the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) on the inside walls of the vessels. Coronary artery disease is the term used for this type of plaque buildup when it occurs in the important arteries that supply the heart’s own cells with blood. The same risk factors that lead to other types of heart disease are also implicated in peripheral vascular disease; even though you might feel symptoms in your legs, your cardiac health is usually responsible for the underlying problem. (There are rare occurrences of non-cardiac PVD, if a person has been exposed to radiation or has suffered traumatic injury to their legs.)
Risk factors for PVD
Risk factors are one step removed from immediate causes; a risk factor is something in your history or lifestyle that makes you more statistically likely to develop a particular disease. Some risk factors for PVD are not within a person’s control, because they are historical or physical facts. These include:
- A family history of heart disease, strokes, or PVD
- Being over 50 years old: Studies indicate that about 5 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 50 have PVD.
- Diabetes (both type 1 and type 2)
- Chronic renal failure
- High levels of homocysteine ( a certain protein) in the blood
Most of the risk factors for PVD, like those for any other type of heart disease, are at least somewhat controllable. These include:
- Physical inactivity
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- High levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol
Although you can’t do anything about your family history, your own health habits are within your power to change. If you and your physician recognize that you could be at risk to develop PVD, or if you are already being treated for it and you want to make the treatment as effective as possible, you can make some changes in your daily routine.
Heart-healthy habits are familiar and straightforward, although they are not easy to follow through with: Stopping cigarette smoking is one of the hardest and best things you can do for your health. Losing weight, eating heart-healthy foods, and getting more exercise are the other ways you can help yourself. Talk with your cardiac specialist about how to give yourself the best chance for avoiding peripheral vascular disease.