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Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when a fatty material (plaque) builds up on the inside walls of the arteries that carry blood to the limbs. The plaque build-up narrows the arteries, slowing down the flow of blood to your limbs. PAD is a common, yet serious disease that affects 8 to 12 million people in the United States; an estimated 5 percent of U.S. adults over age 50 have PAD. Among adults age 65 and older, 12 to 20 percent may have PAD. This disease can impair a person’s physical health and ability to walk.

PAD can also be a signal that there might be a widespread accumulation of plaque in your arteries (atherosclerosis). Early diagnosis and treatment are important to: prevent disability; stop the disease from progressing; and reduce the risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

Who is at risk?

The risk factors for plaque build-up and getting peripheral arterial disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking cigarettes or using other forms of tobacco (such as snuff and chew)
  • An abnormally high level of cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
  • An abnormally low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the good cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Family history of cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity (too little regular exercise)
  • Kidney disease