(BPT) - Heart disease is often referred to as a “Silent Killer,” and for good reason. According to the CDC, approximately 650,000 lives are lost from heart disease each year, more than chronic lower respiratory disease and all forms of cancer combined.1,2 Many people are aware of the risks of heart disease and the importance of eating healthy, exercising, and keeping an eye on their cholesterol, but did you know that “heart disease” is actually an umbrella term for several related conditions, including artery disease?1,3
What You Need to Know About Artery Disease
While CAD and PAD can lead to serious health outcomes, early detection and treatment can help to improve your outlook. But the first step is becoming more aware of the common risk factors and red flags.
Pam P., a physical education instructor from the Washington, DC metro area, got a surprising diagnosis on a typical afternoon in 2009. Her daughter insisted Pam see her doctor after noticing her toes and feet were discolored. Thanks to her daughter’s keen eye, Pam was able to receive surgery just in time to clear a dangerous blockage that had formed in the arteries of her leg.
“We went to a general practitioner who said, this is a vascular thing, so I ended up having emergency surgery that day. I had no idea what PAD was. I'm a Type 1 diabetic. I'm on an insulin pump. But I had never heard of peripheral arterial disease. So, I was unaware,” said Pam.
Despite many early warning signs, those with PAD may not always experience symptoms.5 Studies have found that 4 in 10 people with PAD do not complain of leg pain, a common symptom, which is why it’s even more important to talk to your doctor and get screened if you may be at risk.12
Similar to CAD, some common risk factors include a history of smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.4,5 And, while they are different conditions, patients with PAD are at increased risk of more severe CAD.5
See here for a brief overview of serious outcomes that can result from PAD.
“As a family medicine practitioner who has been in the field for more than 40 years, I believe it is crucial for both patients and healthcare professionals to recognize the potential red flags when it comes to CAD and PAD, and ensure we’re having open conversations with our patients about their risk and potential symptoms,” said Dr. Veita Bland, a family medicine physician in Greensboro, NC. “In many cases, this means talking about what patients are actually experiencing in their day to day – like having difficulty walking to the mailbox or upstairs – which can be equally as telling as their diet, exercise, and family history.”
If you think you or a loved one may be at risk for CAD or PAD, it’s important that you talk to your doctor. In many cases, treatment – which may include lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, or taking medication – can help prevent further progression of artery disease.4,5
Unfortunately, many people are not getting screened or seeking treatment until the damage has already been done. Education, awareness, and early detection are important first steps.
To learn more about CAD and PAD, including if you may be at risk, visit ArteryAware.com.