Here’s Why the Pandemic is Extra Risky for PAD Patients

We’re all stressed right now. Because, whether you’ve lost your job, are working on the front lines, or are adjusting to a new work-from-home setup, work stress is constant. That’s not good for anyone. But, according to a new evidence published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, it’s especially problematic for people with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Let’s take a closer look at these results. Then, we’ll determine what your next steps should be if you’re living with or at risk for PAD.

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

First, a review: PAD is a cardiovascular problem. It develops when cholesterol or plaque (fatty substances in your blood) build up in your blood vessels, preventing blood flow. Typically, we see this accumulation in your legs, which contain some of the vessels farthest away from your heart—at the periphery of your body, hence the name.

Initially, PAD can be hard to diagnose, since many symptoms are subtle, or mimic other complications. Still, if you experience changes in your skin color, hair loss on your legs and, most especially, leg pain when you walk, you may have PAD.

Even at the best of times, PAD is a serious condition. Left untreated, it elevates your risk of heart attack and/or stroke. So, treatment is always crucial. But, according to these new study results, treating your PAD at this moment is even more important. Why? Researchers discovered that PAD patients who experience work-related stress are more likely to require hospitalization.

Why Stress Worsens PAD Symptoms

For the purposes of this new study, work-related stress encompasses both psychological and social pressure. Typically, this stress results from a loss of personal control, combined with high on-the-job expectations. And let’s face it: many of us are dealing with both of these issues during this period of quarantine and COVID-19.

What happens when PAD patients get stressed on the job? After examining records from 139,000 men and women between the ages of 39 to 49 years, researchers discovered that 667 of the participants entered the hospital  because of PAD complications.

And, after factoring in other health issues and lifestyle choices, the researchers discovered work-related stress increased the risk of PAD-related hospitalization by 1.4 times.  Lead study author Katriina Heikkilä explains, “Our findings suggest that the work-related stress could be a risk factor for peripheral arterial disease in a similar way as it is for heart disease and stroke.“

While the exact connection is unknown, stress is associated with an increase in inflammation and blood sugar levels. As such, it could contribute to PAD complications. In a big way: 25% of the patients who were hospitalized for the first time, reported work related stress when the study began.

Maintaining Your Health During Stressful Times

What does all of this mean for you, as a PAD patient? Well, first of all, try to manage your stress levels: prioritize movement, mindfulness and daily self-care. But, in times like these, stress may keep on coming. Still, that, doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from hospitalization. What, then, is the key to your safety? Staying on top of your PAD treatment protocol, and getting regular check-ins with your arterial specialist. Don’t feel comfortable coming into our office? No problem. In recognition of the current pandemic, we are proud to offer Telemedicine appointments for PAD patients. So stay safe, and stay well, with your Houston PAD specialists.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association

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