Stay in Circulation

The ‘cardio’ in cardiovascular is just half the story. Vascular disease can affect your whole body. If you’re like most people, when you think about your cardiovascular system you think first about your heart. But don’t forget that your blood vessels are every bit as important to your health. Vascular diseases show up in places you might least expect—from the large arteries that send blood to your major organs to the tiny veins that carry it back from the tips of your toes. Having a parent, sibling or child with vascular disease raises your own risk, but the most significant risk factors for vascular disease are smoking and diabetes.

While some circulatory problems are just annoying, others are dangerous and even fatal. This head-to-toe guide intends to keep you in circulation. Read on to learn more about six common vascular diseases, telltale symptoms and actions you must take to protect your health.
Chest: Thoracic aortic aneurysm

Warning signs: Usually no symptoms until the aneurysm expands or leaks; then throbbing or aching chest pain, coughing or shortness of breath.
Take action: Call 911
What’s happening: The aorta is the main blood vessel carrying blood out of the heart to
the rest of the body. An aneurysm is an enlargement or split in the wall of the upper aorta, usually caused by hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) or a birth defect. Most aneurysms have no symptoms unless they begin to grow, putting pressure on surrounding organs. A leaking or burst aneurysm is fatal without immediate medical attention.

Abdomen: Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Warning signs: Usually without symptoms; but a rupture causes sudden pain in the abdomen or back that’s severe, persistent or constant and may radiate to the groin, buttocks or legs.
Take action: Call 911

What’s happening: The large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and
legs expands abnormally or balloons outward.

Arms: Buerger’s disease

Warning signs: Inflamed, swollen and painful hands and feet
Take action: Stop smoking
What’s happening: Buerger’s disease is a rare condition that makes the arteries and
veins in the arms and legs swell up and become blocked by blood clots, causing infections and sometimes even gangrene. The condition is most common in men younger than 40 and is almost always associated with tobacco use. Medication can improve your circulation, but giving up all forms of nicotine is the only way to stop or prevent the disease.

Fingers: Primary Raynaud’s syndrome

Warning signs: Pain or numbness in the fingers or toes (nose, lips and ears also might be
affected), which may appear white or red.
Take action: Warm your hands by flexing or rubbing them or putting them in warm water
What’s happening: Primary Raynaud’s syndrome makes the arteries of the fingers or toes
constrict as an overreaction to cold or stress. It’s common, especially among women, and most cases are annoying rather than disabling. If you experience extended episodes or it first appears after age 40, talk to your doctor, as it may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis or an autoimmune disease.
Pelvis: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Warning signs: Redness, pain, swelling and heat in one leg
Take action: Call 911
What’s happening: DVT is a serious blood clot in a leg or pelvic vein. If the clot breaks loose, it can travel into the lungs, where it blocks blood flow to the lungs and puts pressure on the heart. This is called a pulmonary embolism, and symptoms include sudden difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, chest pain and blue lips or fingers. DVT and pulmonary embolism are emergencies that require immediate treatment.

Legs: Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Warning signs: Calf or leg pain; cold, pale or blue feet; difficulty walking; leg or foot sores that don’t heal.
Take action: An ultrasound or angiogram of leg arteries will confirm the diagnosis, and your
doctor may recommend a bypass or stent if the artery is more than 75 percent blocked
What’s happening: PAD is the partial or complete blockage of an artery in the leg. It’s one
of the most common vascular diseases, affecting about 8 million Americans. Diagnosis is critical. According to the Vascular Disease Foundation, people with PAD are five times more likely to have a heart attack, and two to three times more likely to have a stroke.

Expert Care, Close By
Gwinnett Medical Center is Joint Commission-certified as a primary stroke center, which means it has a full continuum of acute stroke programs, beginning when you arrive in the
emergency department. It also participates in stroke research studies and has departments at GMC–Lawrenceville and GMC–Duluth that are dedicated to stroke patients.

Now open, the Strickland Heart Center allows GMC to offer a full range of cardiovascular services, including open heart surgery. GMC–Lawrenceville is accredited as a chest pain center, which means when you arrive at the emergency room with chest pain you will be evaluated by a team of clinicians who specialize in cardiac services so that you can receive a diagnosis and treatment faster. The cardiac catheterization lab provides minimally invasive procedures and diagnostic testing, and the cardiac rehab center provides Stage I, II and III rehab care.

Let GMC Take Care of Your Heart
To learn more about the advanced cardiovascular services offered at Gwinnett Medical Center, visit


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