Peripheral Artery Disease and Your Heart

Understand the Connection


Peripheral Artery Disease, also called PAD, isn’t limited to your limbs. For many patients, PAD can signal a greater tendency to deposit cholesterol (and develop atherosclerosis) in the arteries elsewhere in the body, including those supplying the heart and brain. That means you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Compared with people who have heart blockages only, people with PAD and CAD have more than twice the risk of cardiovascular-related death in one year.

Without good circulation: 

  • Muscles can ache, or become weak or tired
  • Organs can be damaged and even fail (heart attack, stroke, kidney disease) 
  • Skin can become dry or pale and have wounds that don’t heal well

PAD is said to be a marker for systemic atherosclerosis, similar to cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. So if you have PAD, you likely have some degree of plaque buildup in other areas of circulation, such as your heart arteries or carotid arteries. Taking steps to protect your health and slow any further harm to your arteries can help.

Bottom line: If you have PAD, all efforts need to be made to lower your cardiovascular risk. This means aggressively managing risk factors and perhaps using medications known to protect against heart attack and stroke, if recommended. 
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Published: November 2018
Medical Reviewers: Khusrow A.K. Niazi, MBBS, FACC; Osama A. Ibrahim, MD, FACC; Michelle Sloan, NP

Infographic: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

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