Women With PAD Undertreated But Higher Risk

Peripheral artery disease in women often unrecognized and understudied

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(RxWiki News) Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects men and women nearly equally. Yet women are still more likely to go undiagnosed, even though the serious circulatory disease can nearly triple their risk of stroke and heart attack.

In a statement the American Heart Association noted that only about 10 percent of individuals suffering from PAD experience the traditional warning sign of leg pain after arteries that supply the legs and feet with blood flow become blocked and narrowed.

"Familiarize yourself with PAD risk factors."

Dr. Alan T. Hirsch, lead author of the statement and professor of medicine, epidemiology and community health at the Lillehei Heart Institute at the University of Minnesota Medical School, noted that the number dying and the healthcare costs are at least comparable to that of heart disease and stroke.

He said that women in particular suffer an immense burden from peripheral artery disease, yet current data shows that most women are still not aware of their risk. This means that women are more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated. Research regarding women and PAD also is lacking.

“Although PAD is known to affect women and men equally, research in women has lagged far behind that in men,” Dr. Hirsch said. “As healthcare providers, we must take seriously our responsibility to include women as a key target audience when we work to study, prevent, diagnose and treat PAD.”

Major PAD risk factors include being age 50 and older, smoking and diabetes. Hypertension and high cholesterol, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and a family history of PAD also can increase the risk. PAD, which is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart attack, is usually diagnosed through a simple ankle-brachial index to compare arm blood pressure to leg blood pressure.

Statement authors recommend that heart health promotion campaigns include specific information about PAD, such as the risk factors, as well as screening and treatment information geared toward women. They also urge additional studies of PAD specifically among women.

“Our statement is a call to action,” Dr. Hirsch said. “We must provide a clear and strong PAD message, along with aggressive diagnosis and treatment for both women and men, to improve PAD-related-health. Ultimately, through this, we’ll improve global cardiovascular health.”

The statement was recently published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Last Updated:
February 15, 2012