Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects more than 8 million Americans over the age of 40, significantly increasing their risks of heart attack and stroke. 

Still, because the symptoms of PAD can be difficult to detect, many people who have PAD don’t even know they have it — and that means they’re also not aware of their increased risks for serious complications.

Like coronary artery disease, PAD occurs when arteries become blocked or narrowed, usually by a buildup of sticky plaque. The word “peripheral” means this condition affects arteries away from the heart, in peripheral areas of your body — most commonly the legs. 

At Vein & Cardiovascular Center in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, Ashish Pal, MD, FACC, and his team use advanced methods to diagnose PAD and provide state-of-the-art care to treat the disease and reduce the risks of heart attack and stroke.

Although the symptoms of PAD can be easy to overlook on your own, knowing your risk factors can help you determine if PAD is causing subtle symptoms. 

High cholesterol

Some amount of cholesterol is necessary to ensure your body functions the way it’s supposed to. Your liver makes the cholesterol we need by breaking down the foods we eat. 

When we eat a diet that’s high in cholesterol, the excess circulates in our bloodstream, forming plaque, a sticky residue that can build up along the sides of our arteries. 

Plaque makes the walls of your arteries stiffer, so it’s harder for blood to move normally. Plus, the buildup narrows the opening blood travels through. This condition is called atherosclerosis, and it’s a leading cause of PAD.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure affects millions of Americans — and just as with PAD, many of them don’t even know they have it. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis along with PAD.


Diabetes can make your blood vessels stiffer, which interferes with normal circulation. It also increases inflammation and clotting responses, both of which can contribute to PAD. 

If diabetes affects your nerves, you might not feel some of the symptoms that can occur in people with severe PAD, which means you might not get important treatment.


Smoking raises your blood pressure and increases the risk of atherosclerosis. The chemicals in smoke can cause inflammation inside your blood vessels and interfere with normal healing. 


Extra pounds increase your risks for both high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which means your risk of PAD is also elevated. Many people who are overweight eat diets high in unhealthy fats, a major source of artery-clogging cholesterol.

Older age

PAD becomes more common as we get older, partly due to age-related changes in the structure and function of our blood vessels and partly because we’ve been exposed to other PAD risk factors for a longer period of time.

Sedentary lifestyle

Being active plays an important role in staying healthy. With PAD, physical activity helps by keeping the blood circulating, which makes it harder for sticky plaque to collect on artery walls. Plus, being active helps get rid of excess pounds, and it can help lower blood pressure, too.

Treating PAD for better health

While some people with PAD have symptoms like leg pain, redness, swelling, or warmth, many people never notice any symptoms until a complication occurs. Knowing your risk factors and having routine vascular checkups are the best ways to identify PAD and prevent complications

If you’d like to learn more about PAD, call Vein & Cardiovascular Center or use our online form and request an appointment today.

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