Only 26 percent of adults age 50 and older are familiar with PAD, a condition in which prevalence increases as you age and that affects about 8 million people.
PAD is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries, most common in the arteries of the pelvis and legs. It happens when fatty deposits build up in arteries outside the heart, usually those supplying fresh oxygen and blood to the arms, legs and feet.
The most common symptoms of PAD are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, the pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.
Many people mistake the symptoms of PAD for something else. It often goes undiagnosed by healthcare professionals.
“People with PAD have an increased risk for heart attack and stroke,” said Tracy Stevens, M.D. American Heart Association spokesperson and professor of medicine – cardiologist with Saint Luke’s Cardiovascular Consultants in Kansas City, Missouri. “The American Heart Association encourages people at risk to discuss PAD with their healthcare provider to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.”
Certain risk factors for PAD can’t be controlled, including aging, personal or family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stroke. However, you can control the following risk factors:
- Cigarette smoking. Smokers may have four times the risk of PAD than nonsmokers.
- Obesity. People with a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or higher are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
- Diabetes mellitus. Having diabetes puts you at greater risk of developing PAD as well as other cardiovascular diseases.
- Physical inactivity. Physical activity increases the distance that people with PAD can walk without pain and also helps decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- High blood cholesterol. High cholesterol contributes to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can significantly reduce the blood’s flow. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
- High blood pressure. It’s sometimes called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms. Work with your healthcare professionals to monitor and control your blood pressure.
For information and tools about peripheral artery disease and how to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, go to www.heart.org/pad .
|The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the association’s science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding .|
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke — America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or join us, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or any of our offices around the country, or visit heart.org .