Today, we need to talk about PAD risk factors for women. And for African Americans. Because, both groups may be more vulnerable. After all, PAD (peripheral arterial disease) is a thickening of the arteries that affects blood flow. It’s a form of cardiovascular disease with symptoms such as painful leg cramps. And those cramps mostly show up when walking or exercising, but get better with risk.
Now, we don’t know why, but women and African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be affected by PAD. That’s the case even for women and Black people without other heart issues. Regardless of age. Now, while this statistic is scary on its own, we also have to share warnings about things that further increase the PAD risk for women and African Americans.
PAD Risk Factors for Women
Not every woman has the same PAD risk factors. Therefore, you have to look at other factors to figure out your own risk for PAD. Women who are over 60, or who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have higher PAD risk. But, studies show that PAD risks for women without these factors are almost double that for men without heart disease.
And that’s not all. In a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, we learned other concerns about the PAD risk for women. As it turns out, women get diagnosed with PAD later than men. Then, after their PAD diagnosis, women’s health deteriorates faster than men’s. In particular, women with PAD lose their ability to walk at a faster rate than men do. Which is why women should start early screening for PAD to help prevent these concerns. As should African Americans, who have additional worries when it comes to their PAD risk.
BMI and PAD
Regardless of your race or gender, your body mass index has an impact on your PAD risk. In a recent study, researchers found a u-shaped relationship between BMI and PAD risk. They discovered that people with BMIs below 25.7 saw a 27% decrease in risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease. And, while there wasn’t a concrete number, people with a BMI level above 25.7 had a significant disease risk increase. Want to know your BMI and relative PAD risk? Start with this resource from the National Institutes of Health.
Smoking and PAD Risks
According to a different study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, smoking is a known risk factor for PAD. But it increases PAD risk for African Americans more than for other at risk groups. In this study, researchers followed 5300 participants between the ages of 21 and 84. Of those participants, 13% were current smokers and 19% were former smokers.
Researchers found that current smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to have PAD in their lower extremities. They were also eight times as likely to have calcium buildups in the aorta. And how much you smoked matters too: the more cigarettes a participant had smoked each day, the worse off their arterial health.
In the wake of this study, Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, says: “The findings from this study give us strong evidence of the specific debilitating and life-threatening risks African American smokers face, especially the more they smoke. This type of research can be useful in the development of clear messages targeted to our African American population to underscore the real physical costs of tobacco product use.”
Reducing PAD Risk Factors
Even if you’re PAD risk is high, you can take steps to prevent disease. In a new study in the European Journal of Vascular & Endovascular Surgery, researchers found that making four healthy lifestyle choices helped prevent peripheral arterial disease.
What were these four choices?
- Avoiding too much alcohol.
- Following a healthy diet.
- Staying moderately to highly active.
- Never smoking. (But you probably guessed that one already.)
In fact, these measures were so effective that they reduced your risk by 12%, 16%, 26% and 54% respectively. So imagine what an impact they could have if you worked with all four in combination!
Now, if you’re still worried about your risk for PAD, we’re here to help. If you are in a vulnerable population, or have any type of heart disease, preventative screening is important. So schedule an appointment with our Houston vein specialists right away. We can help determine your PAD risk level, and start you on preventative care or treatments.