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Category: PAD

OMG: This is How Your Birth Month Determines the Way You’ll Die

Check out the discovery we’re calling the scariest of 2019. Late last year, that the time of year during which you were born can determine the way you die. More specifically, your birth month is directly linked to your odds of dying from heart disease! Want to know the worst birth months for heart health? Just keep reading!

Spring and Summer: The Seasons of Heart Disease

In a study published in The BMJ, researchers discovered that heart disease is more likely to kill you if you’re born from April to September, the spring and summer months.

Unfortunately, scientists can’t say exactly why these birth months increase your risk. But they do suggest that there’s a connection between your birth month, and your early exposure to seasonal dietary changes, available sunlight and air quality.

To reach these conclusions, they followed 116,911 women who were recruited for the study, and between the ages of 30 and 55 in 1976. Researchers examined the timing of their births, overall causes of death, and deaths caused specifically by heart disease.  Every two years, ending in 2014, the women completed health and lifestyle questionnaires.

By the end of the study period, over 43,000 of the women had died. And 8,360 of those women died of issues related to heart disease. While that figure may not seem so surprising, here’s what is: spring and summer babies were significantly more likely to have that cause of death when compared to their peers who were born in the fall. Still, without a direct causal link, the scientists warn us that this study is observation only. After all, they can’t completely rule out other, unmeasured factors that may contribute to the increased risk.  Still, if your birthday falls in this range—or even if it doesn’t—it’s important to learn the early warning signs of heart disease, so you can seek treatment at the first sign of a problem.

These are the Warning Signs for Heart Disease

Regardless of your risk for cardiovascular disease, you should never ignore these tell-tale symptoms, especially if they are sudden and unexplained:

1. Chest pain

2. Stomach pain

3. Sweating

4. Leg pain, especially when cramps appear with movement. This could be an early sign of of PAD (peripheral arterial disease).

5. Arm pain

6. Swollen ankles (edema), which can indicate circulatory problems or even heart failure.

7. Chronic exhaustion

On their own, any one of these symptoms should be a sign that it’s time to discuss your heart with a healthcare provider. But, in combination, consider these symptoms a potential emergency. Seek medical attention right away.

Sources: The BMJ, www.bmj.com

 

Check out the Great New Reason to Grab a Beer!

‘Tis the season to toast, and, as it turns out, that might not be such a bad thing after all. In fact, according to new research, picking up your wine glass or beer mug may have a very beneficial effect on your health. Especially when it comes to your risk of contracting certain circulatory conditions, including Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.)

How Wine and Beer Consumption Can Help Your Heart

Now, this information isn’t entirely new. We’ve all heard rumbles about how red wine—in moderation—is good for your heart. So what’s new about this research out of Cambridge and University College London (UCL)?

For one thing, the researchers are giving us updated quantities. Now, they recommend drinking about 1.5 bottles of wine each week, or seven  beers. But that’s not all the research suggests. As it turns out, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is actually better than not drinking at all.

How did they reach this conclusion? Researchers analyzed data from close to 2 million United Kingdom residents. They discovered that avoiding alcohol and drinking a lot gave you a higher risk for seven different heart conditions. And those conditions include PAD, heart attacks and strokes.

Lead researcher Steven Bell explained that moderate alcohol intake reduces inflammation while boosting good cholesterol levels. Plus, moderate drinking can be social. And connecting with peers improves your overall well-being, including your heart health.

The Impact of Alcohol Avoidance

While researchers discovered benefits of moderate drinking, they also found problems with avoiding alcohol completely. In fact, as compared to moderate drinkers, people with zero alcohol intake were more likely to experience angina, heart attacks, sudden coronary death, heart failure, strokes due to lack of blood flow, abdominal aneurysms and peripheral arterial disease.

There was, however, a silver-lining for sober people: not-drinking had no impact on the risk of experiencing cardiac arrest or strokes unrelated to blood flow problems. And, for those who have good reason to avoid alcohol, the researchers noted that alcohol isn’t the only path to decreased risk of heart problems. If you have a good reason not to drink (and there are plenty) you can improve your heart health and decrease your risk of disease with many other lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise. But, if you’re all about moderate, social drinking, take “heart” in these findings, which both Harvard Medical School and John Hopkins Public School of Health have signed off on. In fact, you could use this post to feel even better about the extra glass or two you’re bound to enjoy as you wind down the holiday season and ring in the New Year!

Sources: British Medical Journal (BMJ)

That Pain in Your Legs? It Could Mean a Blood Flow Problem

So many people are quick to brush off a little pain in your legs. But that tendency is the reason so many people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) have delayed or missed diagnoses.  You see, PAD is a condition that develops slowly and with few symptoms. Inside your body, your blood vessels are slowly narrowing due to atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits that keeps enough blood and oxygen from getting to your legs. And it’s that lack of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood which can make your legs feel uncomfortable and crampy. Which in turn is why you should never ignore leg pain that appears for no apparent reason.

Now you know why ignoring leg pain can be so dangerous to your health. Next, let’s take a closer look at ways you can increase the flow of blood to your lower extremities.

This is How to Reduce PAD Symptoms with Improved Blood Flow

If you want to avoid PAD, or reduce existing symptoms, your best bet is to keep your arteries and blood vessels clear of blockages. You also need to work on improving your blood circulation.

The first step in this process? Get moving! Physical activity encourages blood flow. Plus, it helps you maintain a healthy weight, which can also help your body provide sufficient blood to your extremities.

Still, moving more isn’t enough. Diet is also a crucial part of preventing atherosclerosis, the “hardening of the arteries” that causes PAD. That’s because, through a healthy diet, many individuals may be able to lower their cholesterol levels. And high cholesterol is linked to the build-up of plaque in your arteries. (Keep in mind that some people may require medication to lower cholesterol levels. Discuss all changes to your diet with your healthcare provider.)

Regardless of whether or not you also need medication, people with PAD should focus on proper nutrition. As it turns out, many of the foods you eat can actually help improve your blood flow and boost the health of your veins and arteries. Top foods to try include:

·         Beets and beetroot juice

·         Onions

·         Garlic

·         Fatty fish

·         Pomegranate

·         Turmeric

·         Cayenne

·         Oats

·         Whole grains

·         Beans

·         Eggplant

·         Nuts

·         Apples/berries/citrus fruits

Even if you don’t have PAD, adding these foods to your diet and increasing your weekly movement can help prevent problems. But, if your legs hurt; or if you notice changes like discolored legs or loss of hair on your legs, you may already have PAD. If that’s the case, don’t delay: make an appointment to see a vein specialist in your area right away.

Sources: BelMarraHealth.com

Here’s What you Need to Know about Blood Clots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat blood clots pose to your health. When we treat patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your legs, we face a medical emergency. That’s because, if a blood clot breaks free and travels to other parts of your body—especially to your lungs—it can threaten your life.

But, many people want to know: why do I get blood clots? And, what are they exactly? Is there anything I can do to prevent them? So, in this post, we will try to answer all of those questions. Just keep reading to learn more.

Why do blood clots form? stages of PAD

When things are working properly, your blood flows freely through your body, delivering oxygen to your organs and flushing out the waste products created by your body’s metabolic processes. But, if you get a cut, scrape or injury, blood in your arteries and veins (veins return blood from the body to the heart; arteries transport blood away from your heart) will clot to block your blood vessels and stop you from bleeding out.

But, when your arteries or veins get blocked when you aren’t injured, you need medical intervention. Otherwise, you can face complications such as strokes, heart attacks, organ damage and even limb loss. In certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by travelling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), interfering with your ability to breathe.

Blood clots form in blood vessels—either your deep veins or your arteries. Typically, they form after your blood vessels get damaged, triggering a reaction in your body. This reaction involves a mix of platelets and clotting factor proteins.

Why Do Blood Clots Cause Health Problems?

As we mentioned, problematic blood clots form when the connection between platelets and clotting factor proteins goes awry. Platelets are objects in your blood that group together and stick to the walls of your blood vessels when needed.

Clotting factors are proteins in the blood that trigger a reaction to makes platelets and red blood cells stick together. Typically, other proteins in your body make that reaction stop, so your clot only reaches the size needed to prevent excess bleeding.  But when damage to your blood vessels impacts that reaction, clots may grow unchecked, leaving you at risk for clotting conditions like DVT.

Why would I get an arterial blood clot or a DVT?

We can’t always predict who will be affected by blood clots, or when those clots will form. But we do know certain factors that can increase your risk for clots:

·         Prolonged immobility, as with long airplane flights

·         Arm or leg surgery

·         Casting a broken bone

·         Trauma

·         Smoking

·         Being pregnant

·         Diabetes

·         Obesity

·         High blood pressure

·         High cholesterol

·         Age

·         A family history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke or heart disease or stroke

Diagnosing and Treating Blood Clots

The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent their formation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying mobile even on long trips, and using compression therapy can all help protect you from DVT. Even if you develop a DVT, compression therapy—especially within 24 hours of the clot’s formation—can help manage your risk of further complications.

So, as with many other vein and arterial conditions, timeliness is key when it comes to treating blood clots. The sooner you see a vein specialist, the better the outcome you will likely enjoy.

 

How can an Ultrasound Diagnose Vein Disease?

If your legs are tired, heavy or cramping, your vein specialist may recommend a diagnostic ultrasound. If that is the case, you may be wondering: how will an ultrasound uncover what’s going on inside my legs? Isn’t that kind of technology more common in Obstetrics offices?

Well, you’re partially correct: interventional radiologists use a different kind of ultrasound to diagnose conditions like Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.) The technology we use is known as a Doppler ultrasound. And in this post, we’ll teach you how it helps us detect many different kinds of vein disease.

What conditions can a Doppler ultrasound detect?

Doppler ultrasounds check your blood flow. They help us discover whether you have problems like narrowing, leaking or blockages in your blood vessels.

This type of ultrasound uses sound waves to check how well blood flows through your legs. Those waves bounce off your moving blood cells, giving your doctors a better picture of the speed and health of your blood flow. Doppler ultrasounds involve hand-held devices; screenings are pain free and non-invasive.

Using a Doppler ultrasound, vein specialists can detect disruptions in your blood flow, hardening of your arteries and even potentially life threatening conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that develops in the deep veins of your legs that rest well below the skin’s surface.

When should I get a Doppler ultrasound?

We may recommend an ultrasound if there are signs that your blood flow has been reduced. These symptoms can include changes in the appearance of the skin on your legs, leg pain that appears with movement, hair loss on your legs or even wounds that won’t heal.

If you’ve had a blood clot, or we suspect you have one, a Doppler ultrasound can quickly confirm this diagnosis.

We may also recommend a Doppler ultrasound if you’ve recently had a stroke or heart attack. That way, we can determine whether compromised blood flow or clots may be putting you at risk for a repeat problem.

What’s involved in a diagnostic ultrasound for vein disease?

You’ll typically lie down for your ultrasound. Your ultrasound technician may measure pressure in certain areas of your body by apply blood pressure cuffs at points like your ankles, calves or thighs.

Next, your technician will apply lubricant to the  ultarasound guide (called a transducer). Then he or she will move the device over your skin until we receive a good image of your blood flow.  A Doppler ultrasound typically takes up to 45 minutes. Once it’s done, you are usually free to get up and go back to your daily activities.

When you have an ultrasound in our Houston area vein clinics, your results will be reviewed and delivered to you by one of our highly trained team members. If a problem is detected, we will then take the time to discuss and explain your diagnosis, and walk you through all your possible treatment options.

 

What is Critical Limb Ischemia?

The American Heart Association has new guidelines for diagnosing and treating CLI (critical limb ischemia.) But in order to understand the guidelines, we must first understand the condition itself.

What is Critical Limb Ischemia?

Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is a severe blockage in the arteries of your lower extremities. It heartbeat icondramatically reduces blood flow to your lower limbs, making it a serious form of PAD (peripheral arterial disease). PAD and CLI are both caused by a buildup of plaque in your arteries. And that buildup leads to atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of your arteries.

CLI is a painful, chronic condition. It makes your feet or toes hurt, even when you’re resting. If CLI is advanced, you may develop ulcers (sores that won’t heal) on your legs or feet. Some CLI patients even need to have an amputation.

Symptoms of Critical Limb Ischemia

The best known CLI symptom is ischemic rest pain, when your legs and feet hurt a lot when you stop moving. Ulcers on your feet and legs are also common. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain or numbness in your feet.
  • Shiny, dry and smooth skin on your legs or feet
  • Thickened toenails
  • A loss of or lessened pulse in your legs or feet
  • Gangrene (dry, black skin) on your legs or feet

Diagnosing and Treating CLI

The American Heart Association (AHA) emphasized the importance of diagnosing and treating CLI.

“Timely diagnosis and treatment is likely to preserve limb viability and improve quality of life,” Mark A. Creager, MD, past AHA president and director, explained to theheart.org. Reasons for a Vein Evaluation

Why? CLI affects an estimated 12 million adults in the United States, but diagnosing and managing the condition can be “challenging.” Moreover, strategies for perfusion assessment (testing your cardiovascular system’s ability to supply your tissue with enough blood flow) “remain limited,” according to Dr. Sanjay Misra of the Mayo Clinic. And evaluating limb perfusion is crucial because it speeds up the CLI diagnosis and prevents many invasive procedures.

What has Changed with the New CLI Guidelines?

Currently, the guidelines for diagnosing CLI tell physicians to look for ischemic rest pain, an ulcer, or the presence of gangrene for at least 2 weeks. Those symptoms, in combination with reduced blood flow (hypoperfusion) as measured by one of several tests (ankle-brachial index (ABI), ankle pressure, toe-brachial index (TBI), toe systolic pressure, transcutaneous oximetry (TcPo2), or skin perfusion pressure (SPP)) would indicate that a person has developed CLI.

Until now, vein specialists were been most likely to use the ankle-brachial index (ABI) to detect CLI. But under the new guidelines, the American Heart Association suggests that checking toe pressure will deliver a more accurate diagnosis.

Interestingly, the AHA also promotes experimental technologies for checking blood flow in your lower extremities, including a contrast-enhanced ultrasound like the kind we can provide in our Houston area vein clinics.

Regarding this kind of scan, the statement says: “New technologies offer potential opportunities to improve the precision and quality of CLI management,” helping detect and treat CLI at an earlier stage and reducing the number of amputations associated with this condition.

Sources: American Heart Association, health.ucdavis.edu, medscape.com

What is Claudication and Why Would I Have it?

Claudication is the medical term that describes muscle pain, cramps and/or a heavy tired feeling in your legs. The pain may radiate to your hips, feet or buttocks. It occurs with movement and disappears with rest, and is usually a result of reduced blood flow to your lower limbs. For this reason, claudication is a common symptom of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.)

 

How Does Claudication Progress?

Without treating the underlying cause of your claudication, symptoms and flare ups will get worse over time. In the early stages of claudication, symptoms may also include:

·         aching

·         burning

·         heaviness

At first, claudication causes a dull, aching pain in the lower calf. The initial pain or sensation can also travel to, or develop in, other muscle groups, such as:

·         thigh

·         buttock

·         hip

·         feet

These symptoms usually appear with muscle movement, like walking or exercise, and resolve with a few minutes of rest. If, however, people continue exercising through the pain of claudication, they may experience:

·         numbness

·         severe cramps

·         difficulty walking

·         soft tissue damage

·         cold skin

Usually, claudication only affects one leg; if it impacts both, symptoms are usually worse in one leg than the other. Over time, these symptoms typically become more severe. The only way to improve your condition is to treat the underlying cause.

Treating Claudication and PAD

At Texas Endovascular, treating PAD with state of the art, minimally invasive procedures. Most of our treatments— which include Angioplasty, Stenting, and Atherectomy–don’t require an overnight hospital stay. Using these methods, we prevent the need for surgery in most cases, often allowing our patients to go home the same day as their procedure.

During your procedure, one of our Houston area vein specialists will insert a small IV and wire through your groin,  gaining access to a blood vessel. From there, we use imaging to guide that wire into a position where it can impact your affected artery. Depending on the progression of your PAD, we will use a balloon to widen the blood vessel (angioplasty) or a stent to hold it open; both options will increase blood flow to your lower extremities, and should relieve your claudication symptoms.

 

 

The Scary Truth about PAD and Limb Loss

Did you know that over 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss, and vascular conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD) are the number one cause of those losses? If those statistics sound scary, consider this: current estimates suggest that, by the year 2050, an estimated 3.6 million people will be struggling to deal with a lost limb like a foot or leg.

While vascular conditions are responsible for the most amputations in this country, they aren’t the sole culprit: trauma; cancers; and birth defects also take a major toll on limbs.

A Closer Look at Limb Loss Statistics

In a year-long study by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, researchers

Deep Vein Thrombosis
PAD and other vascular disease are responsible for most of the amputations in the US

uncovered some frightening statistics:

  • Diabetics have a 10 times higher risk of amputation than individuals who don’t have diabetes.
  • Among diabetics, those of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans backgrounds have an even higher risk of lower limb loss.
  • 82 % of amputations in the U.S. are the result of vascular disease, and this percentage is expected to rise as more Americans develop diabetes and PAD.

Diabetes, PAD and Limb Loss

What’s the connection between these big three problems? Let’s take a closer look. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired.

When diabetes is poorly controlled, glucose can build up in the blood stream and contribute to the development of plaque, a substance that can narrow your arteries and reduce blood flow, usually to your legs and feet. In fact, that’s the definition of PAD—a condition that sets in when blood vessels develop atherosclerosis (built up plaque) inside the vessel walls. The plaque narrows the vessels narrower, slowing blood flow. If a blockage hardens it is more likely to burst and cause a blood clot to develop. A clot may completely block your artery, which cuts off blood flow to your legs and feet. If that occurs, a few things could happen.

Because of the reduction in blood flow that comes with PAD, the vascular condition is a risk factor for foot ulcers (deep wounds that just won’t heal), and foot ulcers frequently lead to foot and lower limb amputations, especially in diabetic patients. In severe instances, where all blood flow to the legs and feet is blocked, gangrene can take hold in your limbs and lead to an amputation before you even see an ulcer or any other warning sign.

Are you starting to get the picture? Each condition feeds into the next, putting individuals at major risk of losing vital limbs.

Who’s At Risk for PAD?

  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • Diabetics
  • Obese or sedentary individuals
  • Smokers
  • People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure

PAD Treatment Options

In order to treat PAD, you must first be properly diagnosed. Without a comprehensive vascular exam, available in our Houston vein clinic, it’s difficult to spot PAD—because symptoms can imitate other problems, PAD is often misdiagnosed or not caught at all!

Once you know that you have PAD, we can determine a treatment plan: interventions may be as simple as recommending lifestyle changes like a better diet and exercises. Depending on the progression of the disease, our vein doctor may recommend unblocking your arteries through one of our minimally invasive interventional radiology treatments.

Our goal as vein doctors is to protect your vein health and your limbs. Know the risks of PAD and, if you believe you may have this condition, come in for a consultation. One simple exam could keep you from becoming part of this country’s growing group of limb loss victims.

Sources: https://www.sciencedirect.com

Brush and Floss to Save Your Arteries

Do you brush off your dentist when he or she reminds you to floss every day? Is brushing a rushed, once-a-day, event? It turns out you could be hurting more than just your teeth. Here’s why:

Gum Disease Affects Your Heart Health 

Over time, poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease like gingivitis. When gingivitis sets in, however, the bacteria from your gums doesn’t stay put in your mouth! As it turns out, that bacteria can release toxins that enter your bloodstream. Those toxins contribute to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. And when fatty plaque narrows your arteries, you may develop Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD.) PAD limits the amount of blood flow reaching your legs and feet. It is a painful condition that makes it difficult to exercise or even walk. PAD can also increase your risk of forming blood clots.

How to Recognize Gum Disease

The best way to keep your gums from hurting your arteries is to protect those gums with proper care. Brush your teeth, twice a day, for two minutes at a time. Ideally, you should floss after every meal, but aim for at least once a day, before you go to bed, so food stuck between your teeth doesn’t linger overnight, causing problems.

And, even with a proper dental care routine, it’s important to learn the early warning signs of gum disease. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should see your dentist right away:

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth come together when you bite down

Protecting Your Arteries From Gum Disease

If you have a confirmed case of gingivitis, you should take steps to protect your arteries, especially if you’ve been told you’re at risk for heart problems. If you’ve been diagnosed with gingivitis or another gum condition, it’s a good idea to schedule a diagnostic arterial scan to make sure problems in your mouth haven’t spread throughout your body.

Sources: National Center of Biotechnology Information, Ontology Journal

3 Signs Your Leg Pain is Actually PAD

At some point, everyone’s legs get tired. If you’ve walked a lot during the day, had a hard work out, or just been stuck on your feet, you may get muscle cramps or leg fatigue. And that would be perfectly normal. Sometimes, however, that discomfort in your legs could be something more serious: peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which plaque narrows your arteries, limiting blood flow to your lower extremities. Here’s how you can tell when your leg pain is a cause for concern.

Three PAD Warning Signs to Watch For

PAD-affected arteries before, during and after minimally invasive treatments
  1. The pain is constant. Normal leg pain only comes on once in a while. But if your legs hurt or you feel a burning sensation in your legs or rear end every time you walk or climb the stairs, it could be PAD.
  2. Your wounds don’t heal. Because PAD limits blood flow to your lower legs, it reduces the healing time for any cuts or injuries. If you have leg pain and an ulcer, that’s a likely sign that you’ve got PAD.
  3. Your lifestyle puts you at risk. Smokers, people with diabetes, or individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk of developing PAD. If you have these risk factors and experience regular leg pain, be sure to get checked for PAD.

 

PAD is a serious medical condition, but help is readily available, often without surgery. Using minimally invasive procedures, our Houston area vein specialists can help open up your arteries and restore blood flow to your lower extremities. But before we can help, you need an accurate diagnosis, so watch for warning signs and see your doctor right away if you have any cause for concern.

 

Sources: American College of Surgeons, galesburg.com