Welcome to My PAD
I try to stay healthy and practice what I preach, but sometimes, no matter how hard a person tries, things happen.
I had to remind myself of that recently when I was diagnosed with a form of atherosclerosis called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised – cardiovascular disease runs in my family, on both sides!
I guess I should feel lucky. After causes of peripheral arterial disease all, atherosclerosis usually doesn’t have any symptoms until it’s too late. PAD, on the other hand, can definitely let you know that something is wrong. Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem in which plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the extremities, usually the legs. This can cause sharp pain in the legs known as intermittent claudication (IC).
Intermittent claudication is characterized by muscle pain or cramps in the legs (or occasionally the arms) that are triggered by activity, such as walking. The pain disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the blocked or narrow artery. Calf pain is more common, but for me, it was in the thighs.
The severity of IC varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe PAD can make it difficult for you to walk or do other types of physical activity. The problem is that most people are unaware of PAD, so they ignore the discomfort of simply attributing it to aging. But ignoring this potentially devastating condition is the worst thing you can do. PAD is also likely a sign of generalized atherosclerosis, meaning that there may also be reduced blood flow to the heart and brain, as well as the legs.
While I am genetically predisposed to some type of arterial disease, there are other risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing PAD. People over the age of 50 are at higher risk of developing the disease, and men are at higher risk than women. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it. But there are many factors that are under your control. Other factors that increase your chances of developing the disease include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, high homocysteine levels, and being overweight. These are all risk factors that you can do something about with diet, exercise, and supplements.
If you smoke or have a combination of any of these risk factors, ask your doctor to program an ankle-brachial index, which compares the blood pressure in your arms and legs. Why? Because you may not feel any symptoms at first. Even if you do, they are easy to ignore.