Peripheral artery disease (PAD), often called peripheral vascular disease (or PVD), is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or blocked. PAD affects about 1 in 20 people over the age of 50, or 10 million people in the United States. PAD can lead to poor circulation, difficulty walking, and loss of limbs.

Causes

The most common cause of PAD is the buildup of fatty plaque in the walls of the blood vessels. In some cases, PAD may be caused by blood clots that restrict blood flow.

Symptoms

Although some people with PAD have no symptoms, others experience symptoms such as muscle cramping, aching, pain, and numbness. The most common symptom of PAD is the feeling of cramping and aching in the legs or hips - especially when walking. This occurs when there's not enough blood flowing to the leg muscles during exercise. The pain typically goes away when the muscles are given a rest. If you experience symptoms of PAD, don't dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Talk to your healthcare provider.

Prevention

Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you prevent the clogged arteries of PAD.

  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat sources of protein such as nuts and fish
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight and keep diabetes under control
  • Quit smoking
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