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Defeat Diabetes
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A Red Flag for Heart Disease, Yet Few Women Are Aware of PAD

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only 28 percent of American women are aware of peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.), a common and dangerous vascular disease that affects approximately nine million Americans and as many as 4.5 million women. 

According to a recent study, P.A.D. � or clogged arteries of the legs � is associated with a high risk of heart attack, stroke, amputation and death.

The cross-sectional, population-based telephone survey of 2,501 adults over age 50, included 1,338 women. The majority of women surveyed reported having at least one risk factor for P.A.D., including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and history of smoking. As well, more than one in four reported leg pain, which should usually trigger efforts to evaluate P.A.D. in such a high risk population.

Women were much more likely to be aware of other cardiovascular diseases such as stroke (74 percent), coronary artery disease (65 percent) and heart failure (67 percent). Yet, the risk for P.A.D. is equal to or greater than the risk for these conditions. Female respondents were much more aware of relatively rare diseases that affect far fewer people, including Lou Gehrig�s Disease (36 percent), multiple sclerosis (44 percent) and cystic fibrosis (31 percent).

P.A.D. occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. This can result in leg muscle pain when walking and disability, amputation and a poor quality of life. Blocked arteries found in people with P.A.D. can be a red flag that other arteries, including those in the heart and brain, may also be blocked � increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Women who reported familiarity with P.A.D. actually know very little about the disease�s potential consequences. Only 27 percent of women familiar with P.A.D. associate the disease with an increased risk of heart attack; only 28 percent associate P.A.D. with a greater risk of stroke; and only 13 percent link P.A.D. with amputation. While people with P.A.D. have high mortality rates, only 14 percent of women familiar with P.A.D. know that P.A.D. is associated with an increased risk of death.

P.A.D. affects both women and men and can strike adults of any age. The risk of P.A.D. is increased in people over age 50, particularly in smokers and former smokers, and in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, a personal history of heart disease or stroke, and in African Americans.

To increase public awareness of P.A.D., the P.A.D. Coalition and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health are conducting a national awareness campaign titled �Stay in Circulation: Take Steps to Learn About P.A.D.� The campaign provides tools for consumers, community groups, medical professionals and health organizations to inform Americans about the risks, symptoms and treatment of P.A.D. New Stay in Circulation resources are available online at http://www.aboutpad.org. For more information about the survey and other P.A.D. resources, visit http://www.PADCoalition.org or call 866.PAD.INFO (723.4636).

Source: Diabetes In Control: published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Jan. 2008

 
 
 
 
 
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