SSM Health Medical Minute: Peripheral Artery Disease affects millions who don’t know they have it

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries and a restriction in blood flow due to plaque buildup, most commonly in the legs, but also seen in the stomach, arms, and head.

PAD in the lower extremities can cause cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. PAD patients may also experience slow-to-heal or non-healing wounds on their feet.

Worsening symptoms can increase risk for heart attack or stroke and in extreme cases can require leg amputations. Although there are more than 3 million new diagnosed cases each year in the U.S., PAD often goes undiagnosed.

PAD increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

Risk factors for PAD include: smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure/cholesterol; risk increases with age. Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for PAD – this includes quitting smoking, controlling diabetes and high cholesterol/high blood pressure, and weight monitoring. Simple exercise programs and medications are also possible prevention methods – consult with your physician to formulate a health plan that’s right for you.

To learn more, visit the SSM Health Vascular Institute online.