An Education on Peripheral Arterial Disease and ABI Testing

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a condition commonly affecting Americans over the age of 50. Because February is Heart Month and there are over 10 million undiagnosed cases of PAD (according to the American Heart Association), now is the time to spread awareness about the disease.

PAD occurs when the arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, also known as plaque. This plaque buildup causes the arteries to harden and narrow, a process known as atherosclerosis. PAD occurs most often in the arteries in the legs, but it also can affect other arteries that carry blood outside the heart, such as the aorta, the brain, the arms, the kidneys and the stomach.

Who is at risk for PAD?

  • Smokers, or former smokers
  • People with diabetes or high blood pressure/cholesterol
  • People of African-American ethnicity
  • Those who have already had or have a family history of heart disease, a heart attack or stroke

What are the signs of PAD?

  • Cramps, fatigue or pain in the legs, thighs or buttocks that occurs when in motion and goes away when resting
  • Foot or toe pain while at rest (often disturbs sleep patterns)
  • Skin wounds or ulcers on the feet or toes that are slow to heal, or don’t heal at all

It is important to note here that a main reason there are so many undiagnosed cases of PAD is that people ignore their leg pain and attribute it to aging. It is paramount to discuss any leg or thigh pain you may be having with your health care provider.

What tests are there to determine if I have PAD?

The ABI (Ankle-Brachial Index) is the best method for PAD testing. It uses sound waves to find out if there is reduced blood flow in the arteries, and also compares the blood pressure in the ankles with the blood pressure in the arms. Along with the ABI, peripheral arterial disease can be diagnosed by tests that measure blood pressures in the leg, toe pressures or artery blood flow.

How do I prevent or control PAD?

  • If you smoke, get help to quit and set a quit date.
  • Lower your blood pressure to less than 140/90 mmHg or less than 130/80 mmHg if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
  • Lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol to less than 100 mg/dl or to less than 70 mg/dl if you’re at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan to control your blood pressure and cholesterol, and also your blood glucose if you’re diabetic.
  • Get regular exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes 3 to 4 times per week.

This post is published by Sherman Health to provide general health information. It is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from your physician. For more information on heart health, click here to visit Sherman’s Heart and Vascular Center.

About Sherman Health

Sherman Health has provided medical care to Northern IL since 1888, and is currently home to a network of over 600 physicians. The Sherman blogs are edited by me, Luke. Questions? Comments? Links? Email address is luke at shermanhealth dot com.
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