Peripheral artery disease often unrecognized, untreated
Women with peripheral artery disease, or PAD, are two to three times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those without it — yet it’s often unrecognized and untreated, especially in women. That’s according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement.
Public Health Moment
[powerpress url="http://www.advances.umn.edu/audio/PAD.mp3"]Listen to Alan Hirsch on Public Health Moment (1:30)
PAD is a circulatory disease caused by a buildup of fat and other materials in blood vessels outside of the heart — usually in the legs, feet, and arms. Left untreated, it can increase heart attack and stroke risk, severely limit walking ability, and lead to limb amputation.
University of Minnesota cardiologist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, says relatively few women are aware of PAD.
“Currently, the burden of peripheral artery disease is as high or higher for women than men,” he said. “Less than one in four women with or at risk of PAD are aware of it. And the risk of heart attack and stroke is as high as it would be if someone had already suffered a heart attack.”
Hirsch calls for more awareness, testing
Hirsch provides advice for women and for providers.
“The first call to action is to assure that women at risk – in general women over the age of 50 or with heart disease risk factors – are tested for PAD,” he said. “One other call to action — to primary care clinicians and to women’s heart-health programs — is to recognize that the risk to women is not only the direct cardiac risk but the risk of PAD. This is a message to practice holistically and to recognize that arterial disease – whether in the brain, heart, or legs – is more or less equal.”
More about PAD
About 8 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease, but only about 10 percent experience the warning sign of leg pain. Many people experience no symptoms at all. As a result, few sufferers receive prompt treatment.
Major risk factors of peripheral artery disease include being 50 and older, smoking and diabetes. High blood pressure and high cholesterol, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and a family history of PAD also may increase the risk.