Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease in which plaque, the accumulation of fat and cholesterol, builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs. This build of plaque is a condition called atherosclerosis. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body. If the plaque build-up is not addressed, you could potentially lose a limb.
The known risk factors for peripheral artery disease are those that predispose to the development of atherosclerosis. Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include:
- High blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol–the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
- High Triglycerides–another form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease
- Cigarette smoking
- Types 1 and 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure (hypertension) or a family history of hypertension
- A family history of atherosclerotic disease
- Chronic renal failure
- Overweight or obesity
- Physical inactivity
By taking action to control your risk factors such as being physically active, following a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and quit smoking, you can help prevent or delay PAD and its complications.
Lifestyle changes can also help prevent and control conditions associated with PAD, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and stroke. Although PAD can be serious, it's treatable. If you have been diagnosed with PAD, there are medications and minimally invasive, endovascular procedures such as atherectomy that can break up the plague in your arteries and re-establish normal blood flow through your legs. PAD treatment often slows or stops the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications.
PAD affects over 10 million Americans, it is slightly more common in men than women and affects 12-20 percent of people 65 and older. By understanding your risks, changing your lifestyle to a healthier one and quit smoking if you smoke, you can hopefully lower and prevent your chances of developing PAD.