Peripheral artery disease, or PAD in and of itself, is not a deadly condition except in extreme cases where critical ischemia is left untreated. Most people receive appropriate treatment before that ever happens. But to understand how PAD can predict future (or existing) cardiovascular disease, we must understand a little bit more about what exactly PAD is. PAD typically occurs when the arteries outside the chest and brain area begin to narrow due to plaque buildup, known as atherosclerosis. This plaque buildup reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing to the body’s extremities. It begins to cause mild problems that can eventually lead to significant concerns, including amputation of the affected limb.
Importantly, it stands to reason that if plaque has built up in the arteries of the extremities, there’s a good chance that it has done the same in arteries feeding the heart and brain. If this is the case, patients have a significantly higher risk of heart attack and stroke. A heart attack involves the occlusion of arteries feeding oxygen-rich blood to the heart. When the heart is starved of this oxygen, tissue begins to die. Stroke, on the other hand, occurs when blood clots or pieces of arterial plaque dislodge and travel up to the brain, including a blood vessel, ultimately damaging or destroying the area of the brain fed by that vessel.
Of course, we are ultimately always to prevent the buildup of arterial plaque regardless of where it is. This can be achieved by quitting smoking, improving one’s diet, and exercising more. Heart attack and stroke risks can also be reduced this way, and patients who have already been diagnosed with PAD can follow their doctor’s orders and improve their lifestyles.
However, for those yes moderate to advanced PAD, according to this staging system, visiting a peripheral artery specialist like Dr. Farrugia is the best way to start a treatment plan and avoid worsening the condition. Not only can we perform the diagnostic testing necessary to understand the severity of PAD, but he can also treat specific PAD manifestations using a minimally invasive procedure known as balloon angioplasty.
Other cardiovascular risks
Of course, knowing that PAD patients have additional cardiovascular risks beyond their extremities, it is essential to look further into those risks and understand if other interventions or medications are necessary to avoid heart attack and stroke.
For more information on treating arterial disease in Central New Jersey, we encourage you to contact our office and schedule a consultation with Dr. Farrugia.