The Calves Have It

Women with peripheral artery disease have tougher time than men because of smaller calf size

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Researchers at Northwestern University School of Medicine find women with peripheral artery disease (PAD) may experience more problems walking and climbing stairs than men with the same condition.

Peripheral artery disease causes blockages in leg arteries. Symptoms of PAD include pain and cramping in the calves, numbness or tingling in the legs and sores on feet that won't heel, among others.

Mary McDermott, M.D., professor of medicine and of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a team of researchers followed 380 patients (men and women) with PAD for four years. The researchers measured participants' calf muscle characteristics and leg strength every year while keeping track of whether the patients could walk for six minutes without stopping and climb up and down a flight of stairs without assistance.

McDermott said women with PAD were more likely to develop a mobile disability and thus be unable to walk for six minutes continuously compared to men. The difference in calf muscle size between men and women appeared to play a role in this disparity.

Men experienced great calf-muscle loss than women during the study, however.

Peripheral artery disease affects eight million individuals in the United States, putting each at increased risk of stroke and heart attack.

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Review Date: 
February 7, 2011
Last Updated:
February 7, 2011