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Don't wait for PAD symptoms before seeking information

Published On: Feb 06 2012 02:40:03 PM CST
Updated On: Aug 17 2012 10:49:31 AM CDT
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(NewsUSA) - One out of every 20 Americans over age 50 is diagnosed with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). The worst part of this reality is that most people with PAD don't experience any symptoms. PAD is dangerous, especially when there are no warning signs.

Peripheral Arterial Disease is a progressive disease commonly called clogged arteries in the legs, poor circulation or a hardening of the arteries.

People have PAD when the arteries in their legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, or plaque. The buildup of plaque causes the arteries to harden and narrow, which is called atherosclerosis. This reduces blood flow to the legs and feet.

The severity of the disease depends on how early it's diagnosed as well as pre-existing health issues. PAD's primary symptom is an intermittent cramping of leg muscles during walks or hikes. For some, the pain may feel more like numbness, weakness or heaviness. Whether or not you have symptoms, having PAD means that you're at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke and even death.

Many people don't get tested for PAD because they have no symptoms and never feel a thing. The good news is that proper treatment saves lives. If you're over 50, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for PAD.

The test for PAD is called the "ABI" or ankle-brachial index. It's a comparison of blood pressure measurements taken at the arms and ankles. It can also assess the severity of the disease.

Despite the presence or lack of symptoms, individuals are their own first line of defense. When face time with actual doctors is limited, it's helpful to have a list of prepared questions on hand.

The Vascular Disease Foundation (VDF), a non-profit dedicated to public awareness and education regarding vascular health, has compiled some questions to ask doctors about PAD:

* Does my medical history raise my risk for PAD?

* What can I do to reduce my blood sugar level if it's too high or if I have diabetes?

* What do you recommend to quit smoking?

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