If you have peripheral artery disease, or PAD, there are a few things to keep in mind:
People living with PAD are at risk for worsening leg pain with exercise and even amputation(s) (loss of a limb) due to permanent tissue damage. This can happen because the skin was deprived of blood supply and vulnerable to injury.
If you have symptoms of PAD, it is likely that they will remain relatively stable for a time. However, the risk of having a heart attack or stroke will — perhaps silently — worsen.
"If you have PAD, you could also be hiding significant coronary or cerebrovascular disease. Think of it as a red flag, and talk with your care team." – Gregory Piazza, MD, FACC, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
Lowering your overall cardiovascular risk is critical if you have PAD, and may include:
There are calculators that your health care team can use to estimate your risk of having a heart attack or stroke over a set period of time. It's important to know your personal risk and to understand that it changes over time. This can help you and your doctor develop a plan to aggressively manage your risk factors — those things that make heart disease and stroke more likely.
It's not easy to kick the habit. But if you have PAD, you need to reach out and get the help and support you need to stop smoking. Why?
People who smoke are 2 to 6 times more likely to develop PAD, and the symptoms and complications tend to be worse. Smokers also tend to develop symptoms sooner, usually between 40 and 50 years old.
Talk with your health care team about PAD and cardiovascular disease, especially if you already have PAD or suspect you might have it. Here are some questions to help get you started: