PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease) is a very serious disease that affects millions of Americans over age 50. Arteries in the legs of someone with PAD are narrowed by plaque build-up from cholesterol and other substances, preventing the delivery of the needed oxygen required when you walk. How do your legs feel when you walk? Do you have pain or cramping? The narrowed, hardened arteries found in people with PAD are an indicator that they are likely to have narrowed, hardened arteries in the brain or heart.
How healthy is your heart? Heart attack and stroke remain leading causes of death in the United States, and both can be prevented with the right steps.
What Can I Do?
First, see your physician. Discuss any symptoms you may have. Talk about your medical history and risk factors. Your physician will do a vascular review to assess walking impairment, claudication (pain when walking) or the presence of non-healing wounds. They will examine your pulses and inspect your feet. There are several non-invasive procedures that can be easily performed to give you and your physician the information needed to make the right choices about preventative care or intervention if disease processes are present. They may order a test called ABI. This is an Ankle-Brachial Index, it compares the blood pressure in your ankles with the blood pressure in your arms. They may order other pressure tests like segmental pressures, toe-brachial pressures or examine the blood flow in your legs with ultrasound.
Diagnosing blockage is important because “blocked arteries” often means blockages in the heart vessels. Over time, plaque can build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow and increasing risk for heart attack.
Do You Have Any of These Risk Factors?
Many, though not all, risk factors for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke are related to lifestyle:
- Obesity and overweight
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Reaction to stress
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Patients can review results of any ordered tests with their doctor, to determine risk for PAD or other vascular disease and make decisions about any medical interventions that may be necessary. These may include anything from modifying diet and exercise routines, to adding cholesterol medication or more invasive solutions.
Since testing for PAD is simple and non-invasive, this is an easy way to help patients be proactive in managing their vascular health. For more information about PAD and vascular health, please contact us at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. Visit us online or call Consult-a-Nurse® at (727) 869-5498 for answers to your questions and free physician referrals.
American Heart Association