What Is Macrovascular Disease?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2018
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Macrovascular disease can refer to any condition affecting the body’s large blood vessels, whether in one area or in different places. Vessels associated with the heart, extremities, or brain may be affected. Any one of the major vascular diseases may occur because of age, or in association with conditions such as diabetes. If one has macrovascular disease in one part of the body, there is usually a chance of it appearing elsewhere.

One form of macrovascular disease affects the arteries that lead to the heart. Called coronary disease, this condition typically results from the buildup of fatty substances in the vessels. Cholesterol and calcium can build up in the wall of an artery causing the path for blood to flow to narrow. The constriction sometimes causes pain in the chest, or a clot can form in the artery and cause a heart attack. If there is a significant lack of oxygen to the heart, then permanent damage and weakness can result.


Peripheral vascular disease is a condition in which the large arteries of the extremities can be damaged. The femoral artery in the legs is often affected by this macrovascular disease. Someone with the condition typically has leg pain that can make it difficult to walk; if a clot forms then it can harm one’s leg if not removed by surgery or medication. When blood vessels going to the brain narrow, cerebrovascular disease can cause temporary symptoms similar to a stroke, or a complete blockage may form, which often has serious consequences.

Some people are more genetically prone to macrovascular disease. Those with high blood pressure or cholesterol, who smoke, or have diabetes are often at a higher risk than normal. Depending on one’s condition, treatment can focus on the underlying causes and address an individual’s risks.

Macrovascular disease that results from diabetes often occurs as a result of inflammation. Injury to the walls of arteries can cause fats from cholesterol particles to build up. When white blood cells interact with fat particles, this often triggers other immune reactions that cause cells to accumulate in an area. The muscle tissue in arterial walls can thicken as well.

A few processes can lead to macrovascular disease in diabetics and other people, including the buildup of plaque. Hypertension and other metabolic conditions often affect vascular health as well. The accumulation of sugars associated with hyperglycemia sometimes triggers a chain reaction that leads to vascular diseases.



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