FirstHealth of the Carolinas

The Vascular System

The vascular system is made up of the vessels that carry our blood. These vessels include arteries and veins, each with a unique job. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and all veins carry blood to the heart. When these are blocked, damaged or abnormal in any way, chest pain, heart attack, stroke or other problems may occur.

As people age, their arteries tend to harden and narrow. This is called Atherosclerosis which is the build-up of plaque and cholesterol in the arteries. This plaque is made of fatty deposits, cholesterol and calcium and as it sticks to the walls of the arteries it begins to build up and narrowing the amount of room available for blood to flow through the arteries. This can lead to coronary heart disease.

If the narrowing of the arteries occurs in other parts of the body, such as the legs, it can cause peripheral arterial disease or PAD.

Clots (thrombi) are lumps of blood that has changed from a liquid to a solid called coagulation. A clot can form and block the flow of blood to the heart, leading to a heart attack.  The same situation in the arteries leading to the brain can cause strokes.

Clots in the veins can result in deep vein thrombosis (DVT), phlebitis, and other problems. If the clots break free, they become emboli. Those emboli can lodge somewhere else again possibly causing heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolism.
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