Peripheral Artery Disease: Who’s Likely to Have It?

Healthy Heart|Sep.16, 2019

PAD is more than a literal pain in the butt.

It could lessen your quality of life before it shortens it.

So what is PAD? Who’s likely to have it? Can you treat it? (Yes, you can, quite easily. Read on.) We have more answers to those questions and more.

What Is PAD?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) “is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. When you develop PAD, your extremities — usually your legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking. Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

PAD pain in your legs can show up from the buttocks to the hip, thigh and calf.

Who’s Likely to have PAD?

While more than 200 million people worldwide are likely to have PAD, only a tenth of those are diagnosed with a just quarter of those being treated. Bottom line: Just 5 million people are receiving treatment while so many more suffer.1

In the U.S., an estimated 8-12 million Americans2 have PAD, more than those living with cancer (11.4 million), stroke (6.5 million) and Alzheimer’s (5.4 million).

People with PAD have 6-times the risk of coronary artery disease2, heart attack or stroke. Without treatment, a third of people with PAD have a 33% chance of not living five years past diagnosis.5

Common factors among people with PAD:

-Over 50


-Living with diabetes

-High blood pressure

-High cholesterol


-History of heart disease

-History of blood vessel disease

-Lack of physical activity

African-Americans have 2-times the risk of PAD.2

For women, it can be particularly insidious as 50-90% of women with PAD4 have no or unrecognized symptoms. With PAD, women have 4-times the risk of heart attack.

What Are Symptoms?

Commonly, people will experience cramps and tiredness as well as pain in legs while walking and exercising. That pain can extend to the toes or feet while resting.

Open wounds on toes or feet that are slow to heal can also be indicators of PAD.

That said, 20-50% of patients are asymptomatic, which helps explain some of the underdiagnosis.

PAD affects 1-in-3 people over 503 who are living with diabetes.

For many, untreated PAD can lead to amputations of the lower legs.

How Can You Treat PAD?

Stop us if you’ve heard this, but as with many other simple steps toward better health, you can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising with a doctor’s approval and eating a healthy diet.

It also helps to control blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

To learn more about PAD, this brochure can help.

1 Fowkes, Lancet 2013; 382: 1329-40.

2 “Peripheral Artery Disease.” Cleveland Clinic, Dec 2015. Web. 6Jul2016

3 “Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)”. American Diabetes Association, 24 Sep 2014. Web. 6Jul2016

4 “Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)”. Society for Interventional Radiology (SIR), July 2016. Web. 6Jul2016

5 Tomson, Joseph; Lip, Gregory Y H, Peripheral arterial disease: a high risk – but neglected – disease population, BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, ISBN: 14712261, 2005, Vol (Iss) Pgs 5 (1) p.15