September is Healthy Legs Month, so to raise awareness, we are discussing peripheral artery disease and some things you probably didn’t know about it. This common disease affects millions of Americans every day, so keep reading to learn if this is something you should discuss with your doctor.
One in 20 Americans over 50 has it.
Peripheral artery disease is common, but serious. It affects eight to 12 million people in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Many people may not even know they have it.
Because plaque buildup does not always cause symptoms such as leg pain or cramping, many may have PAD without even knowing. This makes it important to see your physician regularly and mention any pain you are experiencing, where it is and how frequently it occurs.
Leg pain or cramping is NOT a normal sign of aging.
Because some think it is, it often goes unreported. It’s important to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you — especially as you age — and let your physician know so he or she can determine whether it is a typical symptom or should be monitored.
Many causes are preventable.
While risk factors that cannot be controlled include being over the age of 50, or being African-American, many are lifestyle modifications that can be made easily. Quit smoking and maintain a healthy diet to lower your risk of contributing diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These also can be controlled by regular doctor appointments and staying on track with prescribed medications.
The leg pain PAD causes has a name of its own.
Claudication is the pain or discomfort felt in the buttocks, thighs or calves as the result of physical activity. Pay attention to your comfort levels as you exercise, and whether you feel any leg pain stemming from overdoing it. If it becomes recurring, it could be claudication and is worth mentioning to your doctor.
Early treatment can save your life.
Catching PAD early can help you get the treatment you need to regain your mobility and lower your risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which ultimately can save your life. As with any health condition, monitoring your symptoms and being open with your doctor can help him or her determine the right course of action for you.
To learn more about claudication and peripheral artery disease, download our guide, Understanding Leg Pain Caused By Restricted Arteries.