Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Risk Factors
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is an urgent health issue affecting over six million Americans, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This condition primarily affects the arteries outside the heart and brain, reducing blood flow to the limbs, particularly the legs.
Does Atherosclerosis Raise PAD Risk?
Atherosclerosis is a condition that involves the accumulation of arterial plaque, causing inhibited blood flow to the organ systems. This plaque buildup is the main contributor to the onset of peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Atherosclerosis raises the risk of PAD through several processes. Firstly, the plaque buildup in the arteries reduces the blood flow to the affected areas. This decreased blood flow deprives the muscles and tissues of oxygen and nutrients, leading to various symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.
Additionally, atherosclerosis can lead to the formation of blood clots within the narrowed arteries. These blood clots can further impede blood flow or break loose and travel to smaller blood vessels, causing a complete blockage. This can result in severe complications, such as tissue damage or even tissue death (gangrene).
Who is at risk for PAD?
People who might be at an elevated risk for PAD include the following:
- Underserved Populations: PAD is a growing concern, especially among underserved populations, who are more vulnerable to complications arising from undiagnosed and unmanaged PAD. Due to limited healthcare access, these individuals may have a higher likelihood of remaining undiagnosed or receiving delayed treatment for PAD. This can result in more severe complications and poorer health outcomes.
- People with a Family History of PAD: Genetic predisposition is thought to accelerate the progression of PAD. Research suggests that certain genetic variations may contribute to a heightened risk of experiencing this condition.
- People with High Cholesterol: LDL cholesterol, often called "bad" cholesterol, plays a crucial role in the development of atherosclerosis. When LDL cholesterol levels are high, it contributes to the formation of arterial plaques, which narrow and harden the arteries over time.
- Smokers: Smoking is a significant risk factor, as it not only raises LDL cholesterol levels but also weakens the blood vessels, making them more susceptible to plaque formation.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is a chronic condition that impedes the body's ability to control blood sugar. A high blood sugar level causes vascular damage, making people with diabetes more vulnerable to PAD. Studies have shown that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop PAD compared to those without diabetes.
- People with a High Body Mass Index (BMI): Excess body weight stresses the cardiovascular system, leading to atherosclerosis. Increased body fat also contributes to chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and abnormal lipid profiles, all of which further promote the progression of PAD. Studies have shown that obese individuals are significantly more likely to develop PAD compared to those with a healthy body weight.
- People with Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Hypertension causes the arterial walls to become stiff and inflexible, making them more susceptible to plaque buildup. This further restricts blood flow and exacerbates the symptoms associated with PAD.
- Advanced Age: As we age, our arteries naturally become less elastic and more prone to plaque buildup. This, coupled with the cumulative effects of other risk factors, can significantly raise the risk of PAD in older adults.
Texas Endovascular: Providing Compassionate Vascular Care to Dallas and Houston Communities
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a serious medical condition that can have potentially fatal consequences if left untreated, resulting in severe complications, including non-healing wounds, infections, and even requiring amputation. However, there is hope for people suffering from PAD.
If you are at high risk for peripheral artery disease, please get in touchplease get in touchplease get in touch with our helpful representatives today for a complete evaluation.