Vascular disease is any abnormal blockage of the blood vessels. Many people suffer from vascular disease and don’t know it. People who are at increased risk for vascular disease can undergo free screening at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. Finding out you are at increased risk for stroke, heart disease, and aneurysms before symptoms develop can be lifesaving, according to Michael Schwartz, MD, of Rockland Thoracic and Vascular Associates.
“An aortic aneurysm is a weakening of the wall of the abdominal aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood through the abdomen. Aneurysms rarely produce symptoms until they rupture. Unfortunately, ruptured aneurysms cause death in 90% of cases,” Dr. Schwartz said.
Another type of vascular disease is carotid artery disease, which is responsible for at least 300,000 strokes a year. The carotid arteries are the major arteries on either side of the neck which supply blood to the brain. Plaque buildup in a carotid artery increases the risk of stroke.
A third type is peripheral artery disease (PAD), plaque blockages in the arteries of the legs which affects up to 12 million Americans, especially those over 50. “The biggest problem for people with PAD is their increased risk for heart disease and stroke,” Dr. Schwartz said. “If we can identify patients with non-symptomatic PAD they can get the appropriate referral and medical treatment.”
Who Should Be Screened
Risk factors for vascular disease include:
- Being older than 60
- Being older than 50, with one or more of the following risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- A smoker
- Family history of vascular disease (including stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure, sudden cardiac death, or abdominal aortic aneurysms)
- Being older than 40 with diabetes
People with any of these risk factors can undergo Dare to C.A.R.E. screening, a free heart and vascular screening and education program offered at Montefiore Nyack Hospital in collaboration with the Heart Health Foundation.
What To Expect During Your Screening
At the appointment, the vascular technologist will conduct three painless noninvasive tests.
The first test uses ultrasound to detect narrowing caused by cholesterol plaque in the carotid arteries in the neck. A second test is performed using blood pressure cuffs on the arms and ankles to identify plaque blockages in the arteries of the legs. The third test uses ultrasound of the stomach area to look for abdominal aortic aneurysm.
“These are screening tests, so if they indicate signs of vascular disease, the results will be sent to your primary care doctor, who will order further testing,” said Evan Kaminer, MD, of Hudson Valley Radiology Associates. “In a small percentage of cases, the screening tests uncover disease that needs emergency treatment. In many other cases, the screening indicates a person has vascular disease at an early stage that can be treated before it becomes a major problem.”
“There’s so much we can do when we identify someone with vascular disease to prevent it from becoming worse and causing illness and death,” said Jared Corriel, MD, of Highland Medical Advanced Cardiovascular Care. “This can include lifestyle modification such as quitting smoking, exercising, and healthy eating, as well as treating high blood pressure and cholesterol.”
If you have any of the risk factors for vascular disease, call 833-32-HEART (43278) to make an appointment for screening.