Heart Health

Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Disease You Should Know About

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Summary & Participants

What is peripheral artery disease (PAD) and why is it important? Watch this webcast to learn about its risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, age, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and how it is related to stroke and heart attack.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2012

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: If you are over the age of 50 and have been experiencing severe leg pain while walking or performing daily activities, you may be suffering from a common condition called Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD.

DIANE TREAT-JACOBSON, PhD, RN:  PAD is a narrowing of the arteries that supply the legs with blood. The arteries can fill up with plaque or calcium and other kinds of things that will narrow the arteries in the legs.

ANNOUNCER:  This narrowing of the arteries in the legs leads to inadequate blood flow.

ALAN HIRSCH, MD: Most individuals have heard of the word "hardening of the arteries."  The medical term is atherosclerosis.  That is derived from the word "athero," which means the gruel or the blockage in the lining of the blood vessel, and sclerosis, which is the deposition of calcium and the hardening of the vessel, and these two processes together can severely narrow and block the artery.

Peripheral arterial disease is caused by the same risk factors that cause blockages in other arteries of the body, such as in the heart and brain.  These risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

This atherosclerotic blockage, by itself, is usually considered to be irreversible, but the rate at which it develops can be markedly blocked by a good, healthy lifestyle and by the use of medications that lower the importance of these risk factors.

ANNOUNCER: But to lower the risk factors of PAD, people must be properly informed about the disease itself.

8-12 million Americans are living with this condition, and up to 8.6 million of these people are without symptoms.

Even those who are symptomatic often mistake the symptoms for something else.

RON GORKE:  I’d walk maybe 100 yards and I’d start to get a pain in my buttocks. A kind of a numbness and then it would run down my leg into my calf and I’d have to stop for maybe five minutes and then I could go again. I thought I had a bad hip so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. This went on for about a year and then I decided I better go and get it checked out.

ALAN HIRSCH, MD:  I consider peripheral arterial disease to have been a silent epidemic, and silent because of a combination of factors that need to be recognized.  It's been silent inasmuch as many patients themselves don't recognize the symptom as being one of a disease that can be altered with medical therapy.

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