Top tips for preventing vascular disease

September is Vascular Disease Awareness Month, and the NHS in Leeds is supporting a national campaign to raise awareness of this condition.

Vascular disease is a condition caused by weakened or inflamed veins and arteries. The disease is brought about by the build-up of fatty deposits in blood vessels

According to Dr Bryan Power, Clinical Lead for Long Term Conditions for NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), “Unfortunately the underlying causes of vascular disease usually build up over many years, so the symptoms can take a long time to show. By the time they do, serious damage to arteries and vital organs and muscles may already have been done.

“Vascular disease greatly increases the risk of having angina, a heart attack or stroke so it’s important to try to prevent it. Treatment focuses on managing disease and preventing complications, but there are things people can do to help themselves. Chief among these is stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight through a varied diet, and exercising.”

If you’re between 40 and 74, you can find out if you’re at risk by attending an NHS Health Check. This is a free health assessment carried out once every five years which aims to identify and reduce your risk of developing vascular and other diseases and help you stay healthy. You will be invited to attend by your GP practice and it is strongly recommended that you take up the offer.

There are a few variations of vascular disease, the most common of which is peripheral arterial disease (PAD), in which a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to leg muscles. The most prevalent symptom, especially of PAD, is severe pain in the legs when walking or exercising.

This pain usually affects both legs at the same time and goes away after a few minutes of rest. Other symptoms include hair loss on legs and feet, numbness in the legs, open ulcers on feet and legs, shiny skin or a change in skin colour on feet and legs, loss of muscle tissue and in men, erectile dysfunction.

If you are experiencing one or more of these issues you should speak to your GP practice as soon as possible.