For many individuals, leg pain may seem like harmless condition that’s easily explained by common conditions, or just simple wear and tear. However, for millions of Americans, leg pain may actually be the result of peripheral artery disease (PAD).
This condition, which is caused by hardening of the arteries in the legs and feet has impacted nearly 8.5 million Americans, and is especially common in individuals over age 60. While you may not know much about PAD, this surprisingly common condition can have serious implications for your heart and overall health. Let’s take a closer look at what PAD is, why it can cause leg pain and what you can do to lower your risk of developing it.
So, what is PAD?
Peripheral arterial disease happens when blood flow through the arteries is reduced because of plaque buildup. It often happens in the legs and feet, but can also happen anywhere else in the body.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that as you age, your arteries will naturally become stiffer and thicker. However, with additional, risk factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol, you can further damage artery lining.
Overtime, this allows a buildup of fat and other materials (plaque) to form within the artery walls. The buildup of plaque narrows the space inside the artery and sometimes blocks blood flow.
Why does PAD cause leg pain?
Because PAD causes narrowed or blocked arteries in the legs and/or in the body’s main artery (the aorta), blood flow to muscles in your calf, thigh or buttocks is reduced. The lack of blood flow to the legs and feet may cause pain throughout your thigh, calf or buttocks, especially when you walk. This painful process is called claudication.
Claudication can cause a wide range of symptoms that vary in severity. For some, symptoms may be hardly noticeable, like slower growth of toenails or coldness in one or both feet, for others, pain may be intense and accompanied by prominent symptoms, like sores and/or wounds that won’t heal and painful cramping.
How to keep your veins and arteries healthy:
When it comes to preventing PAD, or keeping your veins and arteries healthy, there are many simple steps you can take. By incorporating these healthy, everyday habits, you’ll be able to promote health that doesn’t stop with veins and arteries, but supports lasting heart health, too. Keep these tips in mind:
Know your numbers. Make sure to regularly have your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesteroland triglyceridelevels checked. If you have high numbers, work with your doctor to manage them.
Get moving. You’ve likely heard about the importance of regular physical activity and overall health, this is especially true when it comes to heart health. Try to start with exercising 3 times a week. Build to 150 minutes weekly of moderate activity. The more you can exercise, the greater the benefit to your health.
Quit for good. Smoking has a tremendous impact on heart health. In fact, it causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure, increases heart rate, reduces blood flow from the heart and reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body's tissues, just to name a few. However, once you quit smoking, these serious side effects are immediately reduced.
Partner with an expert. When it comes to conditions, like PAD, the specialists of Gwinnett Cardiology Services are experienced in helping to restore blood flow by finding a long-term solution that is best for you. This is also true for a wide array of heart conditions. With extensive resources, the latest in treatment options and a spa-like environment, the new GMC Primary Care & Specialty Center-Suwanee offers the customized, quality health care you've come to expect from GMC, but in a new location that's close to home.