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    What Is Vascular Disease?

    A system of flexible tubes -- some big, some very tiny -- move fluids throughout your body. If they were stretched end-to-end, there would be enough to circle the Earth multiple times.

    Some of them move blood. As your heart beats, it pumps blood with oxygen and nutrients to feed your tissues and carry off waste. Arteries move blood away from the heart. Veins return it.

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    Lymph vessels and lymph nodes are part of a cleaning system that removes damaged cells from your body. They also help protect your body from infections and cancer. The vessels pick up fluid from tissues throughout your body. That fluid eventually drains back into veins under your collarbones.

    This whole network of vessels is known as your vascular or circulatory system. "Vascular" comes from a Latin word for hollow container. Any condition that affects this system is considered vascular disease. The diseases range from problems with your arteries, veins, and vessels that carry lymph to disorders that affect how blood flows. A disease can lead to your tissues not getting enough blood, a condition called ischemia, as well as other serious even life-threatening problems.

    Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease

    Coronary arteries supply blood to your heart muscle. Peripheral arteries carry blood to other tissues and organs throughout your body. Both can have deposits of fat, cholesterol, and other substances on their inside walls. These deposits are known as plaque. Over time, plaque can build up, narrowing the vessel and making it hard for blood to flow.

    Eventually, the artery will be so narrow that your body's tissues don't get enough blood. Depending on where it happens, you can have different symptoms and problems. For example:

    When you don't have any blood flow to a part of your body, the tissues could die. If that happens, you may lose a limb or an organ.

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