Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. All arteries, with the exception of the pulmonary and umbilical arteries, carry oxygenated blood.
The arterial system is the higher-pressure portion of the circulatory system. Arterial pressure varies between the peak pressure during heart contraction, called the systolic pressure, and the minimum, or diastolic pressure between contractions, when the heart expands and refills. This pressure variation within the artery produces the pulse which is observable in any artery, and reflects heart activity. Arteries also aid the heart in pumping blood. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart except for pulmonary arteries.
An aneurysm is a bulge or "ballooning"
in the wall of an artery. Arteries are blood
vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from
the heart to other parts of the body. If an
aneurysm grows large, it can burst and cause
dangerous bleeding or even death.
Most aneurysms occur in the aorta, the main
artery traveling from the heart through the
chest and abdomen. Aneurysms also can happen
in arteries in the brain, heart and other
parts of the body. If an aneurysm in the brain
bursts, it causes a stroke.
develop and become large before causing any symptoms.
Often doctors can stop aneurysms from bursting
if they find and treat them early. Medicines and
surgery are the two main treatments for aneurysms.
(AVMs) are defects in your circulatory system.
The circulatory system includes the arteries,
veins and capillaries that carry blood to
and from the heart. An AVM is a snarled tangle
of arteries and veins. It interferes with
the blood circulation in an organ. AVMs can
happen anywhere, but the ones located in the
brain or spinal cord can have effects such
as seizures or headaches. However, most people
with brain and spinal cord AVMs experience
few, if any, significant symptoms.
The cause of AVMs is unknown, though they
seem to develop during pregnancy or soon after
birth. The greatest danger of an AVM is hemorrhage.
Prevention can include surgery or focused
Your carotid arteries are two
large blood vessels in your neck. They supply
your brain with blood. If you have carotid
artery disease, the arteries become narrow,
usually from the buildup of cholesterol and
other material. If a blood clot sticks in
the narrowed arteries, blood can't reach your
brain. This is one of the causes of stroke.
Carotid artery disease often does not cause
symptoms, but there are tests that can tell
your doctor if you have it. If the arteries
are very narrow, you may need an operation
called an endarterectomy to remove the plaque.
For less severe narrowing, a medicine to prevent
blood clots can reduce your risk of stroke.
Another option for people who can't have surgery
is carotid angioplasty. This involves placing
balloons and/or stents into the artery to
open it and hold it open.
If you have diabetes, your blood
sugar levels are too high. Over time, this
can damage your nerves or blood vessels. Nerve
damage from diabetes can cause you to lose
feeling in your feet. You may not feel a cut,
a blister or a sore. Foot injuries such as
these can cause ulcers and infections. Serious
cases may even lead to amputation. Damage
to the blood vessels can also mean that your
feet do not get enough blood and oxygen. It
is harder for your foot to heal, if you do
get a sore or infection.
You can help avoid foot problems. First, control
your blood sugar levels. Good foot hygiene
is also crucial.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases
your chance (or risk) for getting heart disease
and/or kidney disease, and for having a stroke.
It is especially dangerous because it often
has no warning signs or symptoms. Regardless
of race, age, or gender, anyone can develop
high blood pressure. It is estimated that
one in every four American adults has high
blood pressure. Once high blood pressure develops,
it usually lasts a lifetime. You can prevent
and control high blood pressure by taking
Low Blood Pressure
heard that high blood pressure is a problem.
So what about low blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of your blood
pushing against the walls of your arteries.
Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood
into the arteries. Your blood pressure is
highest when your heart beats, pumping the
blood. This is called systolic pressure. When
your heart is at rest, between beats, your
blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic
pressure. Your blood pressure reading uses
these two numbers. Both are important. Usually
they're written one above or before the other,
such as 120/80. If your blood pressure reading
is 90/60 or lower, you have low blood pressure.
Some people have low blood pressure
all the time. They have no symptoms and their
low readings are normal for them. In other people,
blood pressure drops below normal because of some
event or medical condition. Some people may experience
symptoms of low pressure when standing up too
quickly. Low blood pressure is a problem only
if it causes dizziness, fainting or in extreme
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) happens when
there is a narrowing of the blood vessels outside
of your heart. A substance made up of fat and
cholesterol, called plaque, builds up on the walls
of the arteries that supply blood to the arms
and legs. The plaque causes the arteries to narrow
or become blocked. This can reduce or stop blood
flow, usually to the legs, causing them to hurt
or feel numb. If severe enough, blocked blood
flow can cause tissue death. If this condition
is left untreated, the foot or leg may need to
A person with PVD also has an increased risk of
heart attack, stroke and transient ischemic attack.
You can often stop or reverse the buildup of plaque
in the arteries with dietary changes, exercise,
and efforts to lower high cholesterol levels and
high blood pressure.
Raynaud's disease is a rare
disorder of the blood vessels, usually in
the fingers and toes. People with this disorder
have attacks that cause the blood vessels
to narrow. When this happens, blood can't
get to the surface of the skin and the affected
areas turn white and blue. When the blood
flow returns, the skin turns red and throbs
or tingles. In severe cases, loss of blood
flow can cause sores or tissue death. Cold
weather and stress can trigger attacks. Often
the cause of Raynaud's is not known. People
in colder climates are more likely to develop
Raynaud's than people in warmer areas.
Treatment for Raynaud's may include drugs to keep
the blood vessels open. There are also simple
things you can do yourself, such as
Soaking hands in warm water at the first sign
of an attack
Keeping your hands and feet warm in cold weather
A stroke is a medical emergency.
Strokes happen when blood flow to your brain stops.
Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. There
are two kinds of stroke. The more common kind,
called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot
that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain.
The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is
caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds
into the brain. "Mini-strokes" or transient
ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood
supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.
Symptoms of stroke are
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or
leg (especially on one side of the body)
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you have any of these symptoms, you must get
to a hospital quickly to begin treatment.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a stroke
that comes and goes quickly. It happens when a
blood clot blocks a blood vessel in your brain.
This causes the blood supply to the brain to stop
briefly. Symptoms of a TIA are like other stroke
symptoms, but do not last as long. They happen
suddenly, and include
Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of
Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Loss of balance or coordination
Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour,
although they may last for up to 24 hours. Because
you cannot tell if these symptoms are from a TIA
or a stroke, you should get to the hospital quickly.
TIAs are often a warning sign
for future strokes. Taking medicine, such as blood
thinners, may reduce your risk of a stroke. Your
doctor might also recommend surgery.
vascular system is the body's network of
blood vessels. It includes the arteries,
veins and capillaries that carry blood to
and from the heart. Problems of the vascular
system are common and can be serious. Arteries
can become thick and stiff, a problem called
arteriosclerosis. Blood clots can clog vessels
and block blood flow to the heart or brain.
Weakened blood vessels can burst, causing
bleeding inside the body.
You are more likely to have
vascular disease as you get older. Other factors
that make vascular disease more likely include
Family history of vascular or heart diseases
Illness or injury
Long periods of sitting or standing still
Any condition that affects the heart and blood
vessels, such as diabetes or high cholesterol
Losing weight, eating healthy foods, being active
and not smoking can help vascular disease. Other
treatments include medicines and surgery.
Vasculitis is an inflammation
of the blood vessels. It happens when the
body's immune system attacks the blood vessel
by mistake. The cause is often unknown. Vasculitis
can affect arteries, veins and capillaries.
Arteries are vessels that carry blood from
the heart to the body's organs. Veins are
the vessels that carry blood back to the heart.
Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that connect
the small arteries and veins.
When a blood vessel becomes inflamed, it can
Narrow, making it more difficult for blood to
Close off completely so that blood can't get through
Stretch and weaken so much that it bulges and
may burst and cause dangerous bleeding inside
Symptoms of vasculitis can vary, but usually include
fever, swelling and a general sense of feeling
ill. The main goal of treatment is to stop the
inflammation. Steroids and other medicines to
stop inflammation are often helpful.