What is peripheral artery disease?

Peripheral artery diseasePeripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D., is poor blood circulation in the arteries of the legs. This is due to the narrowing of the arteries as a result of cholesterol and plaque build-up along the internal lining. The accumulation can also harden the artery and decrease the ability for the artery to stretch, which is called atherosclerosis. 

The decreased flow of blood leads to a decreased supply of oxygen to the tissues of the legs and feet which causes discomfort and pain. The most common way of diagnosing P.A.D. is with an Ankle Brachial Index (A.B.I.) which measures the blood pressures in the arms and ankles. 

Signs and symptoms: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the calves, buttocks, and/or thighs with walking, but relieved with rest.
  • Fatigue, heaviness, or irregular skin color in the legs and/or feet.
  • Cold feet, poor or absent foot pulse, or hair loss in the feet or toes.
  • Tingling, pins and needles sensation, or cramping in the legs.
  • Oftentimes people do not have any symptoms. 

Risk factors: 

  • Obesity
  • Family history of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes Mellitus/High Blood Glucose
  • Hypertension/High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • 50 years or older
  • Current Heart Disease
  • Physical inactivity

Medical research has shown that African Americans are at a higher risk for developing P.A.D. than Caucasians or other ethnic groups. One reason may be that most African Americans fall into the categories which put them at risk. For example, one in eight African Americans above the age of 20 has diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Another major concern that research has shown is that African Americans who have P.A.D. or diabetes are at a 2-3 times higher risk for leg amputations than Caucasians. 

The three most common ways to treat P.A.D. is lifestyle changes, medication and through medical procedures. 

Lifestyle Changes

  • Reduce and manage risk factors
  • Eat healthy
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly; especially walking, which can improve blood flow in the legs, muscle strength and energy level
  • Aim for a health weight 

Medication

Anti-platelets

  • Aspirin
  • Plavix (Clopidogrel) 

Procedures

  • Bypass
  • Angioplasty
  • Stents
  • Amputation (severe cases)

About Maria Loving

I am the coordinator of the Women's Connection's blog and have worked for Via Christi Health for 11 years. I'm also the mother of two boys, ages 11 & 13.
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