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Managing Peripheral Arterial Disease, High Blood Pressure Reduces Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

separator If you have diabetes, you’re at increased risk of a condition called peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. And having PAD puts you at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. PAD is a narrowing of the arteries in the legs, arms, kidneys and feet. This narrowing is caused by a build-up of plaque, which slows down blood flow to the heart and brain.

A recent study in the journal Circulation has shown that for people with diabetes and PAD, who also had high blood pressure, aggressive management of high blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. In 53 patients with these conditions, 14 percent of those who took blood pressure medication had strokes or heart attacks. Of those who did not take medication, nearly 39 percent had heart attacks or strokes.

An important key here is that PAD affects 8 to 10 million people in the U.S., but it’s often under-diagnosed. The main symptom is leg pain or weakness. The pain appears at first during physical activity, such as walking, but eventually the pain becomes more severe and is present most of the time.

It’s simple to diagnose PAD. Your doctor or healthcare provider measures blood pressure in your arm and ankle. A simple calculation can determine whether PAD is present. Treatment for PAD varies. It can include taking aspirin every day, taking prescription medication, quitting smoking and changing your eating habits.

If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to get checked for high blood pressure and PAD, and to sick with your treatment plans if you do have these conditions.

Circulation, 21 January 2003
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