DID YOU KNOW that there are other vascular areas of your body, beside the heart, that could become diseased and put you at risk of premature death? Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) can happen in other places of the body beside the heart.
The hardening of the arteries happens over time and is usually asymptomatic (without symptoms). It isn't until you begin to experience acute and severe symptoms, stroke, or even sudden death that vascular disease becomes evident. That is why vascular disease is considered a silent killer.
Stroke is primarily caused by vascular disease and is a leading cause of disability in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control. "Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes someone dies of stroke" (2011, www.cdc.gov). Most strokes occur when the blood vessels in the brain become very narrow or blocked, restricting the flow of blood to the brain. Blood clots or plaque from other areas of the body, such as the neck or heart, can be swept away to the brain, causing a blockage. Depending on the part of the brain affected, the disruption in blood flow can lead to paralysis, brain dysfunction, and even death.
Another vascular silent killer is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). An aortic aneurysm is a ballooning of the artery that leads from the heart and courses through the chest and abdomen. This is a very large artery that carries a lot of blood feeding the lower half of the body. When an aneurysm bursts, it is fatal approximately 90% of the time. Since there are almost no symptoms with an AAA, most individuals with this problem have no clue they have it.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a third vascular disease that can also have serious complications. About 40% of individuals with PAD don't have any symptoms. This disease usually affects the legs but can affect the arms, as well. PAD can cause significant pain and, in the worst case, can lead to amputation of a limb.
Smoking is a strong contributor to vascular disease. Smokers are at an increased risk of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm by a margin of 3 to 1 over non-smokers! Other risk factors that contribute to vascular disease include: high blood pressure, cardiac disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels or family history of AAA. Vascular disease can also be a factor in kidney disease.
Often there are no warning signs that you may have a partially blocked carotid artery in your neck or an aneurysm in your abdomen. A family history of cardiovascular disease or aortic aneurysm may be the only clue that you could be at risk for vascular disease. Vascular screening is the only way for asymptomatic individuals to learn about their vascular health. Fortunately, low-cost and non-invasive tests are available to anyone wishing to know their vascular health status.
Vascular screening exams using ultrasound are convenient, non-invasive painless tests that can be performed either individually or as a package. The three screening exams available to anyone without a physician's order are:
- Carotid (neck arteries)
- Aortic aneurysm (abdomin)
- Peripheral arterial (leg vessels)
There is no radiation exposure with ultrasound exams. Patients simply lay on an exam table as the technologist uses a hand-held ultrasound transducer to scan the area of the body requested. After the images are read by a board certified Radiologist, a report will be mailed to the patient and their physician.
Vascular Screening brochure
Knowing the status of your vascular health is important for anyone over age 55, or if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or AAA. Additionally, healthy lifestyle choices such as increasing your level of exercise, healthy eating, and quitting smoking are all positive ways to increase your quality of life. Don't let the silent killer get you!
Advanced Imaging Center offers vascular screenings without a physician's order, however a Physicians name to send the results of the exam to is required. Insurance does not cover these screening tests and payment is expected at the time of appointment. Call 309-743-0445 for more information or to make your appointment.