a healthy lifestyle reduces stroke risk

health eating prevents strokes
AAA ultrasound screeningcarotid artery ultrasound scanperipheral arterial disease scanning

vascular screening can reassure your lifestyle is healthy

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking are the best ways to reduce the chances of a stroke. Simple regular checks such as blood pressure monitoring are also useful. Less frequent but more detailed tests such as an ultrasound screening may help reassure that your healthy lifestyle is on track. Going for any type of screening should be considered carefully; try to imagine beforehand how you would feel if the results were positive, what you would do with this information and who you may or may not share it with. The following is a guide to some common cardiovascular conditions and, whilst we will always accept self referrals for reassurance, if you are already suffering from any of the symptoms described you should contact your GP in the first instance who may offer you a choice of referral clinics, including NHS, to receive your screening test.

Peripheral Arterial Disease or PAD is a common and serious condition in which the blood vessels (arteries) within the limbs become narrowed and hardened due to a build up of fatty deposits. Over time this restricts the flow of blood to the limbs resulting in pain or pins and needles (claudication) when walking and can lead to more serious conditions such as an increased risk of having a heart attack or a stroke as the fatty deposits occur throughout all the blood vessels in the body.
According to the British Medical Journal, 27 million people in Europe and North America are affected by Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) every year. PAD can often lead to limb ischemia (limb tissue death), which occurs when the blood flow is severely restricted, causing pain in the toes, feet and legs even when resting. In severe cases leg / foot ulcers or gangrene may develop and sometimes amputation may be needed. Limb ischemia is such a serious condition that it can be life threatening. Recent studies show that an increase of 500-1000 new cases of limb ischemia are diagnosed within every one million of the population each year with Ankle Brachial Pressure Index (ABPI) the primary method of diagnosis using ultrasound.

According to a recent study in the British Medical Journal strokes are a major cause in morbidity and death in the UK. In 2013 the Stroke Association undertook a study of stoke incidences and reported that more than 100,000 strokes per year occur within the UK population. There are various types of strokes the majority of which, according to NICE Guidelines (2010), are preventable although there are some causes which cannot be changed for example age, ischemic strokes and more commonly transient ischemic attacks (TIA). These occur when blood clots or calcification / plaque build up in blood vessels such as the Carotid Arteries and narrow or block the flow of blood to the brain. It is common for this to occur with age naturally however there are other risk factors which can also contribute to this process. Haemorrhagic strokes usually occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the brain, in 5% of cases bleeding occurs on the brain's surface. A Carotid Artery Scan using Doppler flow and imaging ultrasound is the usual method to assess for this condition.

The aorta is the largest artery running down the center of the thorax providing blood to all areas of the body. According to research, the normal diameter of the abdominal aorta is approximately 2cm, increasing slightly with age. An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA or "triple A") occurs when the artery wall becomes weak due to the pressure of the blood passing through it causing a bulge outwards at the sides and reaching a diameter of 30mm or above. AAA's are also known to expand at a rate of approximately 10% of the initial size each year. This expansion may lead to rupture and, in over 80% of cases, rupture leads to death.
Most people with a AAA have no symptoms. A small percentage of those who do, feel the effect of the aneurysm putting pressure on surrounding organs experiencing vague back / abdominal pain or an awareness of an abdominal pulsation. The majority of AAA's are therefore often found incidentally whilst investigating other pathologies and large AAA's can be determined by a clinician palpating the abdomen. AAA's are less common in women than in men and, in both sexes, those who have a strong family history (of AAA's) the prevalence is increasingly higher.
The modality of choice for screening and monitoring an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is ultrasound imaging for measuring the aortic diameter. By doing this, diagnosis and management can be achieved before the rupture of the aorta occurs and surgical intervention can take place if necessary to prevent any rupture in the future.

All of Ultrasound Direct's vascular screening scans offer you a report on the day, are performed by a qualified Sonographer in a private dedicated scanning room and can be booked instantly on-line, 24/7. Click on any of the following to find out more and make a booking: