Your vascular system is an important network of arteries and veins, or blood vessels, that bring blood to and from your organs and tissues. Without healthy blood flow, your body cannot work the way it should.\nVascular disease is a group of conditions that affect the health of your arteries and veins and can lead to serious problems like heart attack and stroke. Below, you can get some facts about vascular disease and learn how to lower your risks.\nHow Do Blood Vessels Work?\nYour arteries bring blood from your heart out into your body, giving your organs and tissues the oxygen and nutrients they need. Once your organs and tissues get the oxygen and nutrients, blood returns to your heart through your veins.\nWhen your blood vessels are healthy, flexible, and smooth, blood can move through them easily and keep your organs and tissues working the right way. But if your blood vessels are hard, narrow, or blocked by plaque, blood cannot flow the way it should. This means that your organs and tissues can’t get the nutrients they need, which can cause a range of symptoms and even lead to serious health problems.\nTypes of Vascular Disease\nVascular disease can cause weak spots in your blood vessels, or make them become narrow or blocked. Common types of vascular disease include:\n\nAbdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge or weak spot in the main artery in your torso that brings blood from your heart into your abdomen. If the aneurysm bursts, it can cause life-threatening bleeding.\nAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This happens when a hard substance called plaque builds up in your artery walls, making them hard, narrow, or totally blocked. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems like heart attack or stroke.\nCarotid artery disease, which happens when the arteries that bring blood to your brain become narrow or blocked and can lead to stroke.\nPeripheral artery disease, which happens when the arteries that bring blood to your limbs and pelvis become narrow or blocked and can lead to pain, loss of function, and in severe cases, limb loss.\n\nAm I At Risk for Vascular Disease?\nThe risk of vascular disease gets higher as you get older. Some medical conditions and habits can also make your risk higher, including:\n\nSmoking\nHigh cholesterol levels\nHigh blood pressure\nDiabetes\nBeing overweight or obese\nNot getting regular exercise\nHaving an unhealthy diet\n\nHow is Vascular Disease Treated?\nTreatment for vascular disease depends on what type you have, how severe it is, your symptoms, and other risk factors. Treatment can include:\n\nLifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and losing weight\nSurgery to clean out the plaque in your arteries, to make a bypass (detour) around a blocked artery, or to repair an aneurysm\nBalloon angioplasty and stenting, which uses a balloon to flatten plaque against your artery wall and a metal mesh tube called a stent to keep your artery open\n\nCan I Lower My Risks for Vascular Disease?\nYour doctor can help you find ways to lower your risks, like making changes to your lifestyle and getting regular screenings for vascular disease.\nTo learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute online or call 412-802-3333 to schedule an evaluation with a vascular specialist.