Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood carries oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other nutrients that are needed for all of your organs to function properly. When blood flow through an artery is decreased or blocked, the amount of blood, oxygen and nutrients that reach the tissues decreases, causing damage. The type of damage that occurs depends on the location of the blocked artery. Any artery may become blocked.
Arteries in your legs, arms or brain are called peripheral arteries. This refers to arteries outside of your trunk (in the periphery of your body). Peripheral artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in peripheral arteries, causing them to become narrow, and limiting blood flow to that part of your body. The legs are a common site for peripheral artery disease.
When arteries leading to your brain or in your brain become narrowed or blocked, a stroke occurs. A stroke is caused by inadequate blood flow to part of the brain. When brain cells do not receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients in the blood, they die. Immediate treatment can save your life and limit permanent brain damage.
When the arteries that supply blood to your heart are blocked, the disease process is called coronary artery disease because coronary arteries supply blood to your heart. People with coronary artery disease have a higher risk of stroke. Your risk of a heart attack or stroke is also higher if you have peripheral artery disease.
To protect your heart it is important to learn the signs of peripheral artery disease, stroke and coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease was covered previously. Here is some helpful information on stroke and peripheral artery disease:
Signs of Stroke:
- Numbness on the face
- Face drooping or crooked smile
- Numbness or weakness in the arms
- Difficulty speaking
Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease:
- Cramps or pain in arms or legs
- Change in skin color
- Sores or ulcers on arms or legs
- Feeling very tired when walking or climbing stairs; this pain or tired feeling often goes away when you rest, and returns when you move around.
To decrease your risk of a stroke and peripheral artery disease, make sure other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are under control. Decrease your risk of stroke and peripheral artery disease by adopting a lifestyle that includes:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Controlling blood pressure within healthy limits
- Maintaining cholesterol levels within healthy limits
- Controlling blood glucose levels controlled within desired limits
- Stop smoking
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Sleeping for at least 7 hours each night