When a water pipe clogs in your house, every room can be affected. The same goes for the pipes in your body — the veins, arteries, and capillaries that make up the vascular system and supply your organs with blood. If these blood vessels are damaged by high blood pressure, diabetes, or plaque buildup, a whole cascade of problems can ensue, including kidney failure, dementia, peripheral artery disease, erectile dysfunction, heart attack, and stroke. Keeping all of your body's blood vessels free flowing is vital because “it is very rare for only one part of the vascular tree to be affected by disease,” says Dennis Goodman, MD, FACC, senior cardiologist at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California. In other words, if the vessels that carry blood to the feet, legs, arms, stomach, and kidneys aren't healthy, it's likely your heart and carotid arteries, and the pipes that supply blood to the brain, will be affected too.
But vascular disease is preventable and in some cases reversible when you take healthy steps — even if heart disease, stroke, or other vascular problems run in your immediate family, Goodman says. Here's how to keep the clogs out and lessen your chances of needing pharmaceutical drugs.