When you’re experiencing leg pain, your thoughts don’t typically turn to your heart health first – but issues with blood flow could be causing issues like peripheral arterial disease in your legs. In honor of Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month, we talked to Dr. Ian Cawich about some of the peripheral arterial disease (PAD) risk factors and how we treat it at Arkansas Heart Hospital.
PAD is a disease that blocks the arteries and causes blood flow to the legs to slow or stop, and patients often experience leg pain and numbness. The first step for diagnosing potential PAD patients is a screening that checks blood pressure in the arms, thighs, calves and ankles. A significant drop in blood pressure between the arms and ankles confirms that blood is not flowing properly, and our team begins to outline the treatment plan that works best for each patient’s diagnosis.
Dr. Cawich points out that while there are risk factors that you can’t control, there are ways to manage your risk through lifestyle change.
Peripheral arterial disease risk factors you can’t control:
- Family history of PAD
- Aging – increased risk over the age of 70
- History of heart conditions
Peripheral arterial disease risk factors you can control:
- Smoking – Smokers are four times as likely to develop PAD.
- Diabetes – diabetics are at a greater risk for developing PAD, but Arkansas Heart Hospital offers programs to help manage diabetes. Learn more here.
- High blood pressure – monitoring and controlling your blood pressure can decrease the risk of PAD.
- Obesity – manage your weight in a healthy way to prevent PAD. Learn more about BMI services at Arkansas Heart Hospital here.
Millions of Americans are unable to remain physically active due to the leg pain caused by PAD. If left untreated, PAD can lead to amputation and can put you at a greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
For an evaluation, see our experts at the Vein and Vascular Institute.