Understand Your Risk for PAD
There are many people at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD). It’s a common disease for women and men over the age of 50, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people in the United States. PAD occurs when cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of arteries that supply blood to your legs. This buildup of plaque narrows your arteries and often reduces or blocks blood flow. It’s a serious disease that can impact your health, but understanding who is at risk for developing the disease can help you make lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of PAD.
Adults over the age of 50 tend to be more at risk of developing peripheral artery disease. As you grow older, especially after 65, you may experience more signs of PAD if the disease progresses. It is important to note that many patients do not have symptoms of PAD, or assume their symptoms are due to aging. You may want to consider a PAD screening if you are over 50, even if you have no prominent symptoms.
Smoking is the number one risk factor for PAD. Patients who are heavy smokers, or former smokers, have a very high risk of getting peripheral artery disease and tend to develop it at a relatively earlier age when compared to those who do not smoke. While most patients may not have symptoms until their late 60’s or 70’s, a smoker may start having PAD symptoms in their 50’s.
Diabetic patients are at high risk for developing peripheral artery disease. Studies show that one out of every three adults over 50 with diabetes is likely to have PAD. Patients who are long-term diabetics, particularly insulin-dependent diabetics, are also at a much higher risk of developing the disease. They tend to get PAD in the vessels and arteries of the calves and feet more extensively than other patient groups.
High Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
Patients who have high blood pressure and cholesterol are at risk for developing PAD. High blood pressure (hypertension) raises the risk of plaque building up in the arteries, while high cholesterol and excess fat in your blood may contribute to the formation of plaque in your arteries. Plaque buildup due to high blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce or block the blood flow to your legs, causing PAD.
Patients with a medical history or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke have a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease. If you have a history of heart disease, you have a one in three chance of getting PAD in your legs. It’s important to be aware of your family’s past medical history and your own to see if you are at risk for the disease.
Certain studies show patients with chronic kidney disease have a higher risk of developing PAD. Patients with chronic kidney disease have similar risk factors to peripheral artery disease, including smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which makes it easier to develop PAD at the same time. Chronic kidney disease also imposes additional risk factors that can lead to PAD, including hypoalbuminemia and chronic inflammation.
Your risk for developing PAD is significantly higher if you are obese (a body mass index over 30). According to The Journal of the American Heart Association, people who are obese are 1.5 times more likely to develop peripheral artery disease. Additionally, obese patients are 3-5 times more likely to advance to critical limb ischemia (CLI), which is one of the most severe stages of PAD that can cause leg pain even while you rest.
Race is a strong risk factor for peripheral artery disease. African Americans are twice as likely to have PAD than Caucasians, Asian Americans, or Hispanics for any given age over 40 years old. Not only are African Americans more likely to develop PAD than other racial groups, but they also tend to present with more severe symptoms and stages of the disease and are more likely to suffer worse outcomes from the disease.
Who Has the Highest Risk of Developing PAD?
Smokers have up to four times a greater risk of having PAD. Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for peripheral artery disease due to tobacco-containing chemicals that cause inflammation and the blood vessels to narrow. However, below is a list of other patient groups that have the most significant risk of developing the disease.
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Obese patients
- African Americans
- Over the age of 50
How to Prevent Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral arterial disease treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and preventing the condition from progressing any further. Generally, lifestyle changes, exercise, and medications for claudication are enough to slow the development of PAD or even reverse the symptoms altogether. Here are some other ways to prevent PAD:
- Control high blood pressure
- Eat a low-fat, low-sugar diet
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day
- Manage your weight
- Quit smoking
- See your doctor to control you medical conditions such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure
Our Vascular Specialists
Our affiliated vascular specialists in NJ and NY specialize in peripheral artery disease treatment. They are committed to providing high-quality care and leading the forefront of the next wave of minimally invasive treatment. When you visit American Endovascular, our team will educate you about peripheral artery disease and answer any questions you may have about your condition.
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