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Heart Disease Health Center

Americans' Knowledge of PAD Is Bad

Peripheral Arterial Disease Is Flying Under the Radar of Most Americans
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 17, 2007 -- Never heard of peripheral arterial disease (PAD)? You're not alone, and that needs to change, a new study shows.

PAD hampers blood flow to the extremities, particularly the legs, due to a buildup of plaque in the arteries that bring blood to those areas.

Plaque buildup in the legs may be a warning sign of plaque buildup in other arteries, including those that supply blood to heart muscle and the brain, making heart attack and stroke more likely.

In the new PAD study, some 2,500 U.S. adults age 50 and older were interviewed via telephone about their PAD knowledge.

About a quarter of the group reported being "very" or "somewhat" familiar with PAD.

In comparison, nearly 90% said they were very or somewhat familiar with high blood pressure, about 85% said they were very or somewhat familiar with high cholesterol, and 77% said they were very or somewhat familiar with diabetes.

PAD affects up to 8 million Americans, note the researchers, who included the University of Minnesota's Alan Hirsch, MD.

People who said they were familiar with PAD weren't very savvy about the condition. The researchers write that among people aware of PAD:

  • Half didn't know that smoking and diabetes makes PAD more likely.
  • Less than a quarter knew of the links between PAD, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Only 14% knew that PAD can lead to amputation.

"The public is poorly informed about PAD," write the researchers, who call for national public education programs to teach people about PAD.

The survey, published online in the journal Circulation, has a 3% margin of error.

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