Although most of us are born with healthy blood vessels, and they remain healthy into early adult years, at some point for many of us a process begins which after many years can lead to problems such as stroke, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease.
This process is atherosclerosis. Vascular Health means prevention of atherosclerosis: from ever developing :primary prevention, and halting its progression when it already exists :secondary prevention.
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death in industrialised nations including Ireland (Figure). It is a disease with a lifelong progression, not a normal part of growing old. So much is known about its development and progress that it is largely preventable. Because for most people symptoms only develop late in the process, the first indication that they have a problem comes when the damage is done, often suffering disability or dying of what is now a preventable disease.
Narrowing the gap between what can be done and what is being done to reduce preventable death and disability from cardiovascular disease, is an enormous public health challenge. Learning about our own vascular health is a good place to start, the earlier the better!