In the United States, almost 30 million people have peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, though the vast majority do not realize that they have this dangerous condition.
Most people assume that clogged arteries only happen in the heart. But in fact, this condition can occur anywhere in the body. In some people, this blood vessel blockage, which interferes with the flow of blood to the extremities, leads to leg pain. Such pain serves as an early warning of high risk for strokes and heart attacks, as people with PAD have a much higher risk of these serious, life-threatening health problems.
People who are over 50, are overweight, or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes have the highest risk for PAD. Factors such as smoking and a diet high in fat can cause cholesterol, scar tissue, and blood clots that block the arteries going to the legs. If you have unexplained pain in your legs, especially if it lasts more than a week, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may perform an ultrasound test to check for arterial blockage, which indicates PAD.
To prevent PAD or keep it from becoming more serious, quit smoking, follow a healthy diet, exercise, and get your cholesterol and blood pressure levels checked. Your doctor may also advise you to take a daily aspirin or other drugs to prevent clots or reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure. In severe cases, procedures such as angioplasty or bypass surgery may be required.
Leg pain can mean heart danger, expert says. Medical News Today. February 20,2012. Accessed September 12, 2012. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/67340.php.