Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

'Silent' Artery Disease on the Rise

Study Shows Symptomless Peripheral Artery Disease Increasing Among U.S. Women
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 5, 2007 (Orlando, Fla.) -- A silent type of artery disease that raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes is on the rise in American women, researchers say.

Using government data, they found that asymptomatic, or symptomless, peripheral artery disease (PAD) rates among women aged 40 and older rose from 4.1% in 1999-2000 to 6.3% in 2003-2004.

"A large number of people are at risk and don't know it," says researcher Andrew D. Sumner, MD, medical director of the Heart Station and Cardiac Prevention at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa.

Among men, asymptomatic PAD rates fell from 3.3% in the earlier time period to 2.8% in the latter period.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2007.

PAD and Heart Disease

In people with PAD, fatty deposits accumulate in the inner linings of artery walls, curbing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to limb muscles, particularly in the legs. It's a well-recognized risk factor for future heart attacks and strokes.

Starved for oxygen for long periods of time, leg muscles can cramp and begin hurting after people walk even short distances. Pain typically goes away after a few minutes of rest. But in severe cases of PAD, this leg pain occurs even at rest.

In the study, the researchers detected PAD before symptoms occurred by measuring the ratio of the blood pressure in the ankles and arms -- also referred to as the ankle-brachial index, or ABI. Those with an ABI of less than 0.9 were determined to have PAD.

Obesity and PAD

The increase in PAD among women appeared to be largely driven by a parallel rise in obesity, the study shows.

In the earlier time period studied, 32% of women met the criteria for obesity compared with 47% in the latter period. People with a body mass index (BMI) -- a ratio of height to weight -- of 30 or over are considered to be obese.

Other cardiovascular risk factors that may have played a role: smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes, Sumner tells WebMD. They also rose significantly over the time period studied.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure