They're probably not the first place you'd look to find heart disease, but your arms and legs could be what raises the alarm to a problem with your ticker. Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD is something everyone should know about and take seriously.
When you hear "blocked arteries" you probably go straight to the heart, not realizing that this problem can happen anywhere in your body.
"Blockages or narrowing's that occur in the blood vessels to other parts of your body not your heart, so to your legs, your arms, your kidneys, or the neck blood vessels that go to your brain, that's considered Peripheral Arterial Disease." Said Dr. J. Michael Bacharach with the North Central Heart Institute..
This hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels restricts the heart's blood supply and circulation. More often than not, these blockages appear in the blood vessels of the legs, which can lead to discomfort whenever you move.
"Some people describe pain, some people say it's heaviness or fatigue, their legs just play out and they feel weak." Said Dr. Bacharach.
Leg pain is generally the first sign of peripheral artery disease and it's different than just restless legs. Doctors say if you feel pain when you're walking or exercising, but that pain goes away when you stop without sitting down or elevating your legs, that's when you should go get checked out for PAD.
"If you have PAD it typically means that you have potential blocks elsewhere, I tell people if they have old pipes in the house that are plugged up it doesn't happen just in the bathroom or the kitchen it happens throughout the house." Said Dr. Bacharach.
PAD could be your tip off to something deadly. In fact, the American Heart Association says people with PAD are nearly five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
There are a lot of factors that cause PAD, but living a healthy lifestyle is the sure-fire way to keep your vessels clear.
"Part of it is genetics from a standpoint of your mom or dad did they have similar problem? Tobacco use is probably the most important contributor, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol all of the things can lead to this." Said Dr. Bacharach.
Like most cardiovascular disease, exercise helps cure most ails. However for someone with severe PAD, the last thing they want to do is walk a treadmill. If needed, there are surgical procedures that clear out the vessels, like catheter balloons or stenting.
"A walking program is still the cornerstone of therapy but these other techniques many of them are much less invasive than what we used to do with open operations to try and improve blood flow to the leg." Said Dr. Bacharach.
Knowing is the first step to treatment and programs like Planet Heart at the Avera Heart Hospital can help detect PAD. But it is still on you to take ownership of your body and your health. So if something doesn't feel right, talk with your doc.
PAD has common symptoms, but many people don't show symptoms at all. So the more you know, the more likely you'll be able to help your doctor make an early diagnosis and start treatment.
For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.