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Peripheral Arterial Disease Hillsborough, NJ

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is also known as peripheral arterial disease, peripheral vascular disease and peripheral heart disease. It affects the blood vessels outside the brain and heart, causing them to narrow, which can restrict blood flow to the arms, legs, kidneys and stomach.

What is PAD?

PAD is the result of plaque (composed of fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue and other substances) building up in the arteries that carry vital blood supply to the head, organs and limbs. Over time, this plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to organs and other parts of the body.

What causes PAD?

Risk factors for developing PAD include:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Family history
  • Aging

The most common cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis, which is the excess accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries.

Is PAD preventable?

In the category of controllable risk factors, there are five important steps that can be taken to help lower the chances of developing PAD:

  1. Quit smoking. Smoking is more closely related to developing heart disease than any other risk factor, with regular smokers four times more likely to develop PAD than non-smokers.
  2. Report a family history of the disease or other heart-related diseases to your doctor.
  3. Eat a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium, and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  4. Take any medications prescribed by your doctor to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  5. Work with your doctor to develop a heart healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight.

How is PAD treated?

The most effective treatment for PAD is regular physical activity, at least three times a week, which can result in decreased symptoms in one to two months.

For patients with elevated cholesterol levels, the doctor may prescribe antihypertensive drugs and statins to lower cholesterol levels, along with a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits and vegetables.

If treatments aren’t effective, the doctor may recommend angioplasty, surgery designed to clear the blood vessels of plaque.

What is Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) and Segmental Pressures testing?

An ABI test is a simple, reliable test for diagnosing Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) . The test measures blood pressure in your ankles and compares it to that in your arms. If the blood pressure is lower in your legs than in your arms, it may indicate that PAD is restricting blood flow in your legs. A segmental blood pressure test is used to get a better idea of where a blockage or narrowing your leg arteries is located. Like an ABI, segmental pressure measurements may be used to diagnose PAD or determine the effectiveness of PAD treatments.

What are the risks and symptoms of PAD?

About half of all people with peripheral heart disease don’t know they have it, as they have no symptoms. PAD most typically causes symptoms in the legs.

People who smoke and those with diabetes are at especially high risk of developing PAD and should be screened for the disease, even if no symptoms are present.

Certain risk factors for PAD can’t be controlled, including aging and a family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease or stoke. However, there are many causes of PAD that can be controlled and even eliminated including smoking, obesity, unmanaged diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The most common overall signs and symptoms include:

  • Hair loss on the feet and legs
  • Pain in the thigh, calf muscles and/or hips when walking or climbing stairs
  • Leg weakness and/or numbness
  • Cold sensation in feet or lower legs
  • Toenails that grow slowly or are brittle
  • Ulcers on the legs or feet that are slow to heal or don’t heal
  • Shiny, pale or bluish skin on the legs
  • Inability to detect a pulse in the legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. And approximately 10 million Americans have peripheral vascular disease, a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Don’t be part of the statistics. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have any risk factors for PAD. Call today: (908) 722-0030. You can also read more about PAD on Central Jersey Surgeon’s blog.

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