Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is when the blood vessels carrying your blood from your heart to your extremities have narrowed or are blocked by plaque. PAD is a growing health problem throughout the United States and according to the Center for Disease Control nearly 75% of those who have PAD have not been diagnosed.
Some factors that can increase your risk of being diagnosed with PAD include smoking, hypertension, and diabetes. However, if you have not been diagnosed with any of these conditions but have noticed hair loss on your legs, smooth shiny skin on your legs, or have had pain in your buttock, hip, calf, or thigh while walking it is important to be tested for PAD.
Being tested for PAD is easy and painless and your primary care provider is able to do the testing in their office. There is a test called Ankle-Brachial-Index (ABI) which is non-invasive and does not hurt. The way this test is administered is by taking the blood pressure in your ankle and comparing that to the blood pressure in your arm. Your provider may actually administer the test to you twice – once prior to walking on a treadmill and again after. But it really is as easy and painless as getting your blood pressure taken.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, or if you smoke it is important to be tested for PAD at your next visit to your primary care provider. Also, PAD is a discriminator of age! If you are over 60 years old, even if you do not have any symptoms or have been diagnosed with any of the complicating factors, you should ask your primary care provider about having the ABI at your next scheduled appointment.
If you don’t have an appointment scheduled, now is the best time to do so. Call your primary care provider and ask to schedule a wellness appointment and let them know you would like to have an ABI done at the time you come in. Letting them know in advance is the best way to make sure they schedule enough time for you to get this done.
Remember, you and your primary care provider are a healthcare team and it is vital that you play your part and make your appointments!