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September is PAD Awareness month, so it’s a good time to educate yourself on PAD. PAD patients are at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, so care for yourself by educating yourself on PAD and make an appointment with a cardiologist if you think you may suffer from PAD.

What Is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also known as claudication, poor circulation, vascular disease, or hardening of arteries, is a chronic, life-threatening circulatory condition. PAD causes narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This occurs when arterial inflammation, cholesterol, calcium and scar tissue build up, forming plaque that clogs the arteries and slows blood flow to the legs. The more plaque that builds up on the inside walls of the blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to legs and arms, the more the arteries lose flexibility and narrow, putting patients at greater risk.

Risk factors for PAD, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and age over 60. PAD patients are also at greater risk for heart attack and stroke.

Studies have found that the total annual US costs for patients with PAD exceed $21 billion, including nearly $10 billion for hospitalizations. In Medicare alone, one study estimated spending on PAD accounted for more than 2 percent of all Medicare spending.

PAD has been identified by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as a priority area for comparative effectiveness research.  One study suggested that endovascular therapy appears to be the least costly option in the short-run for patients with PAD.