Cold Feet? Heart Health Might Be the Cause

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a vascular condition that affects more than 8.5 million adults in the United States. With PAD, fatty deposits and calcium build-up cause a narrowing of the arteries that can reduce blood flow to your limbs. In addition to putting you at a higher risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke, untreated PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation.

Understanding the symptoms of and risk factors for peripheral artery disease is the first step in protecting yourself from its effects. With proper diagnosis, patients have access to a growing number of treatment and care management options that can minimize its impact.

Symptoms

Peripheral artery disease primarily affects the body’s lower extremities. The condition restricts blood flow to the legs and feet, which can result in severe cramping in and around the affected areas. Patients often struggle with body temperature issues, as well, as the restricted blood flow can leave the feet and legs feeling cold.

For more serious cases of PAD, a combination of restricted blood flow and the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries can lead to blood clots, increasing the patient’s risk of heart attack or stroke. While the condition is highly treatable, severe or advanced cases that are poorly managed can result in partial amputations of the extremities.

Who Is at Risk for PAD?

As with similar arterial and cardiovascular conditions, there are certain populations that are at an increased risk of developing PAD. Adults over the age of 60 are more likely to experience problems with circulation, particularly in the lower extremities. Similarly, people with diabetes have an increased likelihood of developing the condition.

There are additional health and lifestyle factors that are associated with a higher risk for PAD. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Atherosclerosis or other arterial disorders

Living with PAD

A variety of non-invasive pain management therapies and minimally-invasive surgical interventions such as balloon angioplasty, atherectomy, and stenting can be used to treat the symptoms associated with PAD. These treatments are designed to relieve pain and improve circulation in the lower extremities while eliminating more serious risks like arterial plaque buildup or blood clots. Treatments are typically paired with changes to a patient’s diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that can lower their blood pressure while improving circulation.

Shockwave therapies, which utilize minimally-invasive sonic shocks to break up plaque buildup in the arteries, have recently been used by the experts at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health’s Lankenau Heart Institute. Main Line Health is one of the first peripheral artery programs to incorporate these innovative soundwave therapies and expert-led clinical trials into our PAD treatment offerings. Our team of renowned cardiologists, heart care specialists, and vascular surgeons is dedicated to providing groundbreaking and personalized care for our patients.

Visit mainlinehealth.org to schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist or to learn more about the PAD program at Main Line Health.

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