Cardiovascular disease (heart and circulatory disease) causes more than one in four of all deaths in the UK – that’s around 160,000 deaths a year. This figure includes deaths from stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation.
How can vascular stroke screening help?
Because strokes and heart attacks are so-called ‘silent killers’ in that they rarely have any symptoms and strike without warning, it makes good sense to have your vascular health (that’s the health of your arteries) checked. Vascular Stroke Screening is a comprehensive package of scans and ultrasound tests, which can you, give a representative snapshot of the state of your arteries.
Finding out if you have a problem with your arteries gives you the chance to lower your risk factors for a stroke or heart attack before it happens by making lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise, giving up smoking and losing weight, as well as taking medication to help lower you blood pressure and cholesterol and controlling your blood sugar.
What ‘s included in vascular stroke screening?
Our package of scans costs £179 and is available to men over 45, the purpose is to examine three key areas of the body to assess the state of your vascular system (arteries).
These examinations include:
- An abdominal aorta scan: The aorta is the main blood vessel leading from the heart down to your abdomen and the rest of the body. It’s normally about the width of a hosepipe (approximately 2cm), but if the wall weakens it can ‘bulge’ to (this is called aortic dilatation) double the size at 5.5cm and can be in danger of bursting. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm and is rare but very serious, because if it bursts it can cause fatal bleeding. A rupture accounts for one in 50 deaths in men aged over 65 and causes 6,000 deaths a year in England. Ultrasound Direct’s scan of your aorta will examine the aorta to check for signs of an abdominal aortic aneurysm and also examine the iliac arteries, a network of arteries that supply a number of areas of the body including the lower limbs and pelvis. The scan will be checking for signs of narrowing caused by calcification (fatty deposits) or thrombus build-up (clotted blood) and can also monitor aortic dilatation (swelling of the aorta).
If an abdominal aortic aneurysm is detected, both kidney and renal arteries will be checked too.
- A carotid scan: The carotid arteries are in the front of your neck and carry oxygenated blood to the brain. When the carotid arteries narrow due to a build-up of plaque it raises the risk of you having a stroke. Carotid artery disease accounts for 20 in 100 of all strokes. Our Doppler ultrasound examination will check the size; condition and blood flow of your carotid arteries, from their origin to where they divide in two, to supply different areas of the brain/ head. We will also check internal and external carotid arteries and vertebral arteries. The scan will check for plaque build-up and narrowing.
- A scan for peripheral arterial disease: Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is where your arteries begin to narrow – it affects one in five men aged 50 to 75 and one in eight women in the same age group. It mainly affects the arteries supplying blood to the legs. The main symptom of PAD is pain in one leg or both on walking (this is called intermittent claudication), but only one in four people experience any symptoms – hence why scanning is a good idea as it can help build up a picture of your arteries. Ultrasound Direct uses a Doppler scan to measure blood flow in the brachial arteries in both arms and also takes a blood pressure measurement in the arm and the ankle while a person is at rest called the ankle brachial index. The Doppler scan also checks the tibial arteries in both legs. The tests will help your sonographer determine whether you have signs of PAD, and can also help with on-going monitoring of aortic dilatation.
If you do have PAD, taking 30 minutes of exercise a day (walking is regarded as the best form) has been shown to improve PAD symptoms, as it encourages a network of smaller blood vessels to grow and improves blood flow to the legs.
We will provide a sonographer’s report at the time of the scan with a medical follow-up recommendation if needed.
Preparing for your vascular stroke screening
Prior to your appointment you’ll be asked to fast for eight hours – so no breakfast if your appointment is in the morning and no lunch if it’s in the afternoon. Stick to clear fluids (black tea or coffee are allowed). Diabetics are allowed to eat but must avoid fatty/dairy products.
We advise wearing a loose-fitting top, which is easy to get on and off, as you’ll need to expose the upper and lower parts of your abdomen, neck, upper arms and ankles.