Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Importance Of Vascular Screenings

Vascular screenings check for fatty deposits that build up in blood vessels. Fatty deposits in blood vessels, generally seen in people over age 40, increase a person's risk of developing vascular diseases such as kidney diseases, diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Vascular screenings are important; according to the NHS, one fifth of UK hospital admissions are related to vascular diseases. (1) Screenings will help prevent heart attacks and strokes by alerting people to their risk level and allowing them to make diet and lifestyle changes, start cholesterol reducing medications or join smoking cessation programs that will reduce their risk.

Anyone with a history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol, people who smoke or people who are obese and physically inactive are at risk for developing vascular diseases. Vascular diseases are insidious, developing in a stealthy manner to eventually greatly reduce a person's quality of life and leave them with a debilitating condition that simple lifestyle changes cannot repair. Vascular screenings are highly recommended as a preventative measure, helping people to avoid a lifetime of poor health and disability. Vascular diseases are also fatal diseases. Combined, they are responsible for 36 percent of the deaths in the UK (2), making prevention vital.

The NHS defines obesity as "very overweight with a high degree of body fat." The University of Birmingham calls UK obese rates alarming, with more than 20 percent of UK citizens considered obese. (3) Smoking rates are equally alarming; the 10 million adult cigarette smokers in Great Britain are equal to one-sixth of the UK's total population. (4) If some of the UK's smokers quit smoking after having a vascular screening, not only would deaths from cardiovascular disease be reduced, deaths from respiratory illnesses and certain cancers would also drop. Smoking, obesity and a lack of regular exercise contribute to a wide variety of illnesses and chronic conditions, not just vascular diseases so vascular screenings could contribute to overall better health in the UK if the results encourage people to adopt healthier habits.

Vascular screenings are very important yet relatively simple and straightforward. Blood pressure, height and weight are checked, a family health history is taken and there is a quick blood test. GP's use the results to discuss the steps needed to reduce their patient's risk of developing one or more vascular diseases.

Whilst the vast majority of adults realize being severely overweight, smoking and having unchecked high blood pressure are dangerous to their health, there are many people who do not take the necessary steps to reduce their risk of developing a vascular disease. A vascular screening can be a wake-up call, providing personalised advice to individuals who ignore general health recommendations.

Sources

1. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/04April/Pages/Vascularcheck.aspx
2. http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/long-term-conditions/vascular-screening-programme-moves-focus-to-early-prevention/1137683.article
3. http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/mds/centres/obesity/obesity-uk/index.aspx
4. http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_93.pdf

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