Could your arteries be hardening?
When someone mentions that you have a lot of plaque built up, you’d expect it to be a dentist, not a cardiologist. However, for those with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), fatty plaque builds up inside of blood vessels causing a condition called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Unlike a dentist who can quickly open your mouth and identify plaque buildup, a cardiologist must do more investigation to identify if you are at risk for PAD. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, some have no signs and others have many. Some symptoms include pain or numbness when climbing stairs or walking, weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet or a pale or bluish color to the skin.
“There are a lot of treatment options for PAD, but as with most diseases, early detection is vital,” says Dr. Jaweed Sayeed, interventional cardiovascular specialist at the Advocate Dreyer Vascular Center in Aurora, Ill. “If PAD goes untreated, it can lead to pain or loss of a limb.”
To understand if someone is suffering from PAD, a doctor will give a series of tests designed to measure how well your blood is flowing. “If blood is slowing down at a certain point, it is possible that the plaque has built up and narrowed the vessel so that it cannot flow as effectively,” says Dr. Sayeed.
Depending on the severity of your PAD, there are a number of treatment options. “Sometimes, we can start small with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle,” says Dr. Sayeed. “Other times we use medication to help with pain and symptoms, and in some cases we opt for angioplasty of occluded vessels to increase blood flow through the arteries.”
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