Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a serious disease affecting blood circulation to the legs and feet that can cause sores that will not heal, gangrene, amputation, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. It is a major public health threat that may affect between 10 and 12 million Americans. With this disease, plaque buildup clogs the arteries that supply blood to the legs. If the blood flow is severely blocked, tissue death, or gangrene, can occur and may result in the amputation of the foot or leg.

Common symptoms of peripheral artery disease include painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles after walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication), leg numbness or weakness, coldness in one leg or foot, a change in the leg’s color, hair loss on the feet or legs, and changes in the toenails. The pain can range from moderate to severe, and can usually be alleviated with rest. In more severe cases, however, the pain does not go away with inactivity.

The effects of PAD extend beyond the legs, however. These fat deposits can also build up in arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain, which results in an increased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. As a matter of fact, people with this condition are four to six times more likely to die from heart attack or stroke. Certain risk factors for PAD cannot be controlled, such as age or having a family history of the condition itself, cardiovascular disease or stroke. However, the good news is that many risk factors can be controlled. These include physical inactivity, smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. Medications or surgical procedures may also correct the condition.

One of the problems with peripheral artery disease is that many times, people experience little or no symptoms and have no idea they are at risk. Three out of four people with PAD exhibit no signs of the disease, and women typically have fewer symptoms than men. That is why preventive screening for the disease can be so important. Anyone having risk factors should be screened.

For a screening, most sites perform the ankle-brachial index (ABI), a simple, painless, non-invasive test that compares the blood pressure in the ankle to the blood pressure in the arm. Blood pressure cuffs are placed on the arm and ankle and used to create a ratio. Normally, the blood pressure in the ankle is slightly higher than in the arm. Lower blood pressure in the legs, however, indicates the probability of blocked arteries. New, cutting edge technology automatically calculates the ABI, reducing the risk for human error, and can also measure the stiffness of your arteries, which correlates with heart disease.

Many companies offer mobile screening in community gyms, activity centers, or churches. The screening process is fast, convenient, and close to home. Patients quickly learn if they are at risk for PAD so they can be proactive in either preventing or managing the disease, because left untreated, its effects can be devastating.

For more information about preventive screening for PAD in your area, visit www.healthyes.com
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