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Peripheral artery disease (PAD), the most common type of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), affects 8–12 million Americans, 12–20% of those over the age of 65, and could reach as many as 9.6 million Americans by the year 2050 (Cleveland Clinic, 2012).
Risk Factors/Warning Signs
The risk factors for PAD are the same as those for coronary heart disease (CHD), with diabetes and smoking being the greatest risk factors (AHA, 2005). Ac¬cord¬ing to the American Heart Association, only 25% of those older adults with PAD get treatment. PAD increases the risk of CHD, heart attack, and stroke.
The most common symptoms of PAD are leg cramps that worsen when climbing stairs or walking, but dissipate with rest, commonly called intermittent claudication (IC). The majority of persons with PAD have no symptoms (AHA, 2005). PAD is a predictor of CHD and makes a person more at risk for heart attack and stroke. Left untreated, PAD may eventually lead to impaired function and decreased quality of life, even when no leg symptoms are present. In the most serious cases, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation of a lower extremity.
Most cases of PAD can be managed with lifestyle modifications such as those for heart-healthy living. This includes maintaining an appropriate weight, limiting salt intake, managing stress, engaging in physical activity as prescribed, quitting smoking, and eating a heart-healthy diet.
Patients with PAD should discuss their symptoms with both their healthcare provider and a physical therapist, because some patients find symptom relief through a combination of medical and therapy treatments (Aronow, 2007; Cleveland Clinic, 2012).
Adapted from Mauk, K. L., Hanson, P., & Hain, D. (2014). Review of the management of common illnesses, diseases, or health conditions. In K. L. Mauk’s (Ed.) Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Used with permission.