Peripheral arterial disease, known simply as PAD, is caused by a build up of plaque in the arteries. Over time the plaque hardens, narrowing the arteries, and reducing or blocking the flow of blood. PAD generally affects the lower limbs (legs and feet). However, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can be present in any of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other areas of the body. Several factors can lead to plaque build up in the limbs. There are many conditions and lifestyle habits that increase a person's chances for developing PAD
PAD Risk FactorsYour risk for peripheral artery disease increases if you:
- Are African American - African Americans are more than twice as likely to have PAD.
- Are over the age of 50 - The risk for developing PAD increases with age. According to the National Institutes of Health, 1 in 20 Americans over age 60 has PAD.
- Smoke or have past history of smoking - Smokers and former smokers have a 4X greater risk of PAD. People who smoke also develop PAD symptoms 10 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts. Any amount of smoking places you at greater risk - even smoking as few as one or two cigarettes a day.
- Have diabetes - It is estimated that 1 in 3 people over age 50 with diabetes is affected by PAD. It is also estimated that 1 in 4 African Americans between 65 and 74 has diabetes, compounding the risk for PAD.
- Have high blood pressure - Also called hypertension, high blood pressure raises the risk of developing plaque in the arteries. High blood pressure is especially common among African Americans, who tend to develop it earlier and more often than other ethnicities.
- Have high cholesterol - Excess cholesterol and fat in your blood contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries, reducing or blocking blood flow to your heart, brain, or limbs. Among African-American men and women, nearly one in five have an elevated cholesterol level.
- Have a personal history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke - If you have heart disease, you have a 30% higher risk for developing PAD.