HEALTH – Vascular disease

In recent columns I have written about “metabolic” risk and disease. The end game is to reduce the incendiary of vascular disease – a major cause of early death and reduced well-being in the community.

Vascular disease broadly refers to the reduced health of blood vessels – narrowing, blockage, clot formation and so on. This can affect large vessels that feed the heart, brain and legs, or smaller vessels in the brain, kidneys, eyes and elsewhere. Health consequences include angina, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, reduced circulation to the legs and reduced vision and kidney function.

Risk factor modification is an important part of the prevention and control of vascular disease. Primary prevention involves setting up healthy habits early in order to delay or prevent the onset of vascular disease. Many risk factors simply cannot be changed, such as age, genetic factors, and some health conditions but even if vascular disease does develop, there is still a benefit in maintaining healthy habits to slow disease progression.

The following list is far from exhaustive, but provides a starting point for reducing metabolic risk:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight, and avoid excess tummy fat – this can have many metabolic benefits e.g. for blood pressure and cholesterol, fatty change in the liver, and insulin resistance.
  2. Keep active – try to maintain lean muscle mass, as it is more healthy metabolically. It also encourages good blood flow, heart pumping, and reduces stress.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Choose a diet high in anti-oxidants (high in fresh rather than processed foods) and fibre, and low in salt, glycaemic index and saturated fats (healthy fats include fatty fish and olive oil).
  5. Avoid harmful alcohol intake.

Get as much support as possible – from your GP and other health professionals, the gym, family and friends.



Dr Marie Healy is a GP with interests in aged and chronic care and health promotion. This advice is general in nature; please see your GP for specific health advice regarding your individual circumstances.

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