In peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the blood vessels in the legs are narrowed by fatty deposits, a condition known as atherosclerosis. PAD is a risk factor for heart attacks, because the atherosclerosis most likely also occurs in the coronary arteries.
Researchers at the University of Colorado studied a group of 950 people with diabetes, which is a commonly associated with PAD. In the study, 480 people had normal blood pressure and 53 of them had PAD. The participants took either a placebo or a blood pressure lowering drug. In the first group, blood pressure went down to an average of 137/81 and in the second group the level was 128/75. It is recommended by The American Heart Association that people with diabetes maintain a blood pressure of less than 130/80.
In the study, 22 patients with PAD were in the drug group and 31 in the placebo group. In patients with PAD, 12 heart attacks occurred among those in the placebo group and only three in the group on blood pressure lowering drugs. Measurement of blood flow in the legs showed that even when blood flow was restricted by severe atherosclerosis, blood pressure lowering medication reduced heart attack risk. The study reinforces the importance of blood pressure control in people with diabetes.
How does high blood pressure affect your arteries?
High blood pressure increases your risk of having PAD. Over time, high blood pressure damages the wall of the arteries. As a result, the arteries become thick, hard, narrow and rough inside, making it harder for the blood to flow.
High blood pressure also increases your risk for having a heart attack, stroke, eye problems and kidney disease. Controlling your blood pressure will lower your chances of having PAD, a heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
It’s always a good idea to be educated and proactive about your health. Many things can affect your blood pressure, including the foods you eat, your intake of salt or sodium, your weight, your level of physical activity, your alcohol intake, whether or not you smoke, and how you handle stress. Make the proper choices to keep healthy and be sure to visit your doctor for annual check-ups.