An otherwise healthy 57-year-old man figured he just needed some back-strengthening exercises. But despite doing his back exercises, his leg pain got worse. It soon became difficult to even walk. His trainer suspected something else was wrong and advised him to see his doctor. The doctor’s tests revealed the true cause: blockages in the blood vessels of his legs. In fact, the arteries going to his lower extremities were nearly 100 percent blocked. The result of years of heavy smoking and high-fat meals, which increased his risk of cholesterol and blood clots building up inside his blood vessels.
Most people think that clogged arteries, only happens in the heart. But it can happen throughout the body. It’s called “Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)”. PAD causes leg pains that can be a early warning sign of a heart attack or a stroke.
Nearly a quarter of people who have leg pain due to PAD will die within five years. These deaths are mostly due to heart attacks and other heart related problems. For people whose leg pain keep them from walking even short distances, the odds increase: A bypass operation can be performed to open blocked leg arteries to correct the problem, but prevention is the best cure.
Nearly one person in five, which amounts to nearly 30 million people in the United States, have some form of PAD The vast majority of individuals will not experience any symptoms. Quitting smoking and changing eating habits is the key to avoiding this condition. The old saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” applies in this situation. Among people over age 70, nearly one in five has PAD.