Often called “poor circulation in the legs,” Peripheral Arterial Disease or P.A.D occurs when arteries become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. Most people with P.A.D. do not have any symptoms; some may have leg muscle pain when walking that subsides with rest.
P.A.D. is common. More than 8 million American adults have P.A.D., and it affects about 20 percent of people over age 70. Your risk for PAD is increased if you smoke or used to smoke, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, have abnormal blood cholesterol, are of African American ethnicity, and have a personal history of vascular disease, heart disease or stroke.
P.A.D. is disabling. When blood flow to the legs is severely reduced, people with P.A.D. can barely walk two or three blocks. P.A.D. is a major cause of lower limb amputations and disability.
P.A.D. is deadly. Blocked arteries found in people with PAD are a red flag that other arteries, including those in the heart and brain, also may be blocked. People with P.A.D. are two to six times more likely to die from a heart attack or a stroke.
P.A.D is under-recognized and under-treated. Medicare and most insurance companies limit coverage of the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, the best diagnostic test for P.A.D., and for proven P.A.D. therapies. As a result, many high-risk patients do not have access to P.A.D. testing and their health care providers may not actively look for and treat P.A.D.
P.A.D. is treatable. People with P.A.D. can be treated successfully with lifestyle changes, medicines, and special procedures, if needed. Since they are at high risk for heart attack and stroke, they must take charge of controlling their cardiovascular disease risk factors—quitting smoking; controlling their blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes; taking antiplatelet medicines; and maintaining a healthy weight by following a healthy eating plan and getting regular physical activity.
For more information about P.A.D., please visit www.padcoalition.org.