BLOOD VESSELS; it is hard to overestimate their importance. They are literally our lifelines, delivering the oxygen and nutrition necessary for life. We are as old as our blood vessels.
I will divide blood vessels into 4 components with rather separate domains: The Systemic Arterial system, the Pulmonary circulation, the Venous system, and the Lymphatic system, and will discuss these separately.
SYSTEMIC ARTERIAL SYSTEM
The Boy Scouts taught me the pressure points; The radial, at the thumb-side of the wrist, the brachial, on the inside of the upper arm, and the inguinal in the groin area. Pressure on these sites will stop arterial bleeding distally.
You should be able to locate the radial artery pulse, and begin to appreciate its strength and regularity. Strength in case you encounter a person who isn’t moving, and regularity for yourself; many older people develop an irregularity called Atrial Fibrillation, and you might be the first to discover it..
ANEURISMS are swelling of the arteries, and the swelling may thin the arterial wall so that it can burst. A Cerebral aneurysm can burst and cause a stroke-like problem. If an aortic aneurism bursts, the internal blood loss can be fatal.
RAYNAUD’S Phenomenon is fairly common, and consists of an over-reaction to cold, where arteries of the hands constrict, and the fingers get white and cold. Burger’s disease involves small arteries, and often is associated with Raynaud’s. The arteries carry the blood distally (away from the heart), continuing to divide into ever smaller arterioles which terminate in capillaries, which branch out in such an arborization as to supply all cells except cartilage and parts of the eye.
HYPERTENSION develops when the arterioles, under hormonal or neural influence, constrict, increasing the resistance to blood flow, and so the pressure. Increase in sodium retention and therefore the blood volume can also increase pressure.
ATHEROSCLEROSIS is the common disease of western life style. Excessive calories and sedentary life style combined with genetic defects in fatty metabolism produce cholesterol plaques which narrow and stiffen the arteries, often leading to BLOCKAGE of blood flow. Blockage of flow to the HEART, BRAIN, KIDNEYS, BOWEL, or EXTREMITIES each produce their separate disorders of Myocardial Infarction, Stroke, Renal artery Disease. Intestinal ischemic syndrome, and Claudication.
These disorders will each be separately discussed. I have always thought of vascular disease as a special class of CAUSATIVE MECHANISMS when trying to develop a DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS of a patient’s problems. Blockage to an area results in PAIN or LOSS OF FUNCTION.
Stroke is usually painless with blockage, since the brain has no pain sensors. Blockage of the renal artery often causes complex difficulties including Hypertension, because the kidney is an endocrine organ in addition to its excretory function.
A good Friend and patient showed what careful self-care can accomplish. It all started with a myocardial infarction, the first sign of his blood vessel disease. He had a complication in his workup, and had to have emergency bypass surgery. There had been damage to the heart muscle, with a large reduction in his EJECTION FRACTION.
His cardiologist gave him at most 5 years to live. That was 25 years ago, before the development of the statin drugs. He was given a draconian low cholesterol diet, which he followed exactly. One one visit to the cardiologist, he inquired whether he could have other areas of arterial blockage. His doctor then listened to his neck and discovered a bruit (noise) in the carotid artery, after which he had a Carotid endarterectomy.
In an orthopedist office for back pain, the orthopedist left the room, and my friend noticed in the CT scan report mention of cysts in the kidneys.
The Orthopedist cared mainly about his bones, and had overlooked the “incidental finding”. His brother had died of mesenteric artery blockage from atherosclerosis, he had stomach symptoms, and sure enough he also had arterial blockage to the intestines.
Bottom line: it pays to be an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT in our medical treatment, and even though we all have genetic determinants, we can make our health BETTER with attention to our health, especially SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE.
From Fast Company article (June 26, 2020):
An increasing number of hospitals are now equipping emergency vehicles to treat stroke patients while en route to the ER. UCHealth is a health system in Colorado that has a tricked-out ambulance, the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. A neurologist at the hospital is connected wirelessly through telehealth to the vehicle. First responders’ gear includes portable CT scanners and tPA.
Currently, there are also more than two dozen telestroke networks in the United States. At the hub of each is a large hospital with on-call neurologists, and broadband that connects the hospital directly to satellite hospitals and clinics. There’s always a neurologist on call to guide the smaller hospital staffs’ treatment of a stroke patient.
When I had a stroke five years ago at 10:20 on a Saturday night, telehealth saved my life. At the time, only 3% to 5% of people in the United States were able to get the “clot-busting” drug called tPA in time to avoid brain damage.
In addition to offering telestroke capabilities, healthcare providers should equip emergency vehicles with portable ultrasound devices and defibrillators. Rural communities can consider strategically deploying high-powered wired and wireless hotspots in case patients need immediate medical attention while still en route to the hospital. Following natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods, mobile hotspots configured for telehealth could be helicoptered into isolated communities.
SPEED is especially important when a blood clot blocks an artery servicing an important organ. Our Heart and BRAIN top the list of vital organs. TELESTROKE showcases Telemedicine at its best.
RECOGNITION of a stroke is a weak link in the chain of prompt Brainsaving treatment, and a Mnemonic helps.
—Facial assymetry or drooping
—Arm or leg weakness on one side
—Time is all important
FAST is a good mnemonic, and adding B for balance and E for Eye, or vision loss, for BEFAST gives 2 more parameters to think about.
Living alone adds to the challenge, so be as focused as you can. I was interested to hear that some TELESTROKE ambulances are adding mobile CT and drug (tpa) capabilities, in addition to TELECONFERENCING with a NEUROLOGIST. Treating a stroke within 15 minutes is becoming a possibility.
So particularly if you have risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes or obesity, be on the alert for symptoms of stroke.
Eliquis nicely illustrates my contention in the Overview of Metabolism, that the body is a vast collection of pathways, or “supply chains”. Eliquis blocks a critical enzyme in the pathway leading to coagulation, or clotting” as the product.
Why in the world you want to block clotting? The staunching of blood flow, clotting, has saved countless hordes of early, Paleolithic humans, and continued useful through the bloody Roman and Medieval times, right through the violent 20th Century.
Recently, however, wars are becoming somewhat less popular, and eating excessively more popular, leading to a strange situation. Our evolutionarily-preserved CLOTTING mechanism is now leading to MORE problems than it is solving.
Obesity and type 2 Diabetes are leading to the production of so much fat, that it has to be stored in our arterial walls, clogging the blood flow to our Hearts and Brain, among other areas. This, and the somewhat surprising trend towards longer lives has led to an increase in a variety of age-related illnesses.
When I reached 80 years of age I developed Atrial Fibrillation, a condition leading to a tendency to form clots in my quivering atria, the upper chambers of my heart. To decrease the likelihood of clots getting into my blood stream, lodging in my brain and causing STROKE, my cardiologist started me on Eliquis, an anti-coagulant/blood thinner.
Drugs have three names. The proprietary name, Eliquis in this case, is given by the patenting company to be memorable; q,z,and x are popular letters. The second is the FDA drug name, Apixaban. The drug name often gives the doctor a clue as to its type: xaban refers to inhibiting (banning) of factor 10a (Xa). The third name is a chemical name of interest to biochemists and drug researchers.
When I started the Eliquis, at first unknown to me, I started to bleed internally, leading to a drop in my hemoglobin down to 8.6. I will go into this story when I start going through “how to read your laboratory report”.
I found that reducing my Eliquis from 5mg. to 3.75 mg. allowed me stabilize my hemoglobin by taking extra iron, which I will discuss later.
The doseage selected when the drug company markets a drug is fairly arbitrary, and usually involves round numbers. Interestingly, there is a 2.5mg. Eliquis, which is given if you meet 2 out of 3 criteria. I meet only one and am only 5 pounds shy of the second, in case you think (like my cardiologist does) that I’m taking a risk.
I believe that, whenever you are given a medication, you should be educated about the medicine, and the problem it is intended to benefit. Today’s physician often does not have the time to do this. The internet, including this website, offers a corrective.
I am trying my best to be helpful to you as a Patient Advocate. You and I both must have a doctor to rely upon. But to get the most out of our care, WE MUST BE INFORMED.
Your heart and your brain are your two most vital organs, and if you enjoy life, they should be a top priority. These amazing structures are tethered to life-giving support by your arteries, just as the new you was tethered by your ubilical cord.
Life is fragile, hanging by a thread, or an artery. over the span of your life, These arteries can become plugged by fatty deposits called plaques. A healthy life style-SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE– could slow down or prevent this atherosclerosis.
But everybody should know about the symptoms of HEART ATTACK and STROKE (1) and how to respond if the arteries sustaining your heart or brain become blocked.
You should be familiar with the hospitals in your area. How close are they? What are their capabilities? Are they Class 1 for heart attacks and stroke? Do they have a CATH LAB?
SPEED is important. Within minutes of the BLOCKAGE of an ARTERY to your heart or brain, vital cells start to die. The goal is to remove the blockage as soon as possible. CALL 911 as soon as you have heart attack or stroke symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the ER because of Covid, since almost all now use TELEMEDICINE SCREENING to keep infected patients segregated.
Alas, for many people, such PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE requires too much SELF DISCIPLINE AND CONVICTION. America has an epidemic of OBESITY and an avalanche of tasty FAST FOODS provided by a CONSUMER SOCIETY that is ever-attentive to the latest fads and trends.
Atrial fibrillation is chaotic and irregular atrial arrhythmia, the prevalence of which increases progressively with age. It causes significant morbidity and death. Many patients are asymptomatic or have symptoms that are less specific for cardiac arrhythmias, such as mild dementia or silent strokes.
Gregory Lip, Price-Evans Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Liverpool, gives us an overview of the condition.