Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Leg cramps and muscle aches in your lower body are common enough that you probably dismiss them most times. However, if you experience abnormal or continuous pain in your legs, it’s crucial to consult your physician as it could be a sign of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
This common circulatory problem occurs when there’s a narrowing or blockage in your arteries, restricting blood flow to your limbs. Walking and exercise exacerbates the problem because your leg muscles don’t get enough blood, leading to painful cramps.
- Painful cramping in your lower muscles that occurs while walking but not while at rest
- Loss of pulse in leg/numbness or weakness
- Leg or foot that feels colder compared to the other side
- Sores on lower extremities that won’t heal
- A change in color or hair growth on feet and legs
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Am I at Risk for PAD?
PAD affects millions of people in the United States. It is more common in African Americans than any other racial or ethnic group. Some risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal blood cholesterol levels
- Increased age, especially more than 50 years old
- Family history of PAD, heart attack or stroke
- Heart Disease
What Can I Do if I Have PAD?
If you experience symptoms of PAD or you’re at high risk for the disease, your doctor can order an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) to measure the blood pressure in your ankle compared to your arm. The 15-minute test is simple, reliable and safe. Your ABI result is used to predict the severity of PAD.
PAD drastically alters your ability to live free of pain. It can also serve as a warning sign that blood flow to your heart or brain could also be compromised. Changing your lifestyle is key to reducing your risks for PAD, and it can also eliminate the need for more drastic measures like medication and stents. Get on the right track with these lifestyle changes today:
- Quit smoking
- Lower your cholesterol
- Lower your blood pressure
- Manage your blood glucose
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Discuss antiplatelet medicines with your doctor
For most, these life-saving steps may be enough to slow down the disease and even improve your symptoms.