Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects approximately 12 million Americans today. PAD narrows arteries in the legs, limiting blood flow to your muscles. It can take you by surprise, causing no symptoms at all — or symptoms you may think are something else.
PAD is usually caused by atherosclerosis, the same disease process that causes heart attacks and strokes. And even mild peripheral artery disease is an important signal that atherosclerosis might be affecting vital arteries elsewhere.
Atherosclerosis tends to happen throughout the body. “So if you have plaque in your heart, you’re at a higher risk for stroke, and vice versa,” says Dr. Dan Wunder, Chief, Vascular & Interventional Division of Premier Radiology.
Who Gets Atherosclerosis? It might be easier to ask, who doesn’t get atherosclerosis? If you are 40 and generally healthy, you have about a 50% chance of developing serious atherosclerosis in your lifetime. The risk goes up as you get older. The majority of adults older than 60 have some atherosclerosis but often do not have noticeable symptoms.
There is good news. Rates of death from atherosclerosis have fallen by 25% since 30 years ago. This is thanks to both better lifestyles and improved treatments.