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Press Room : Press Releases

For Immediate Release — February 7, 2008


Few Women Aware of Peripheral Arterial Disease –
A Red Flag for Heart Disease

Christa Saracco
Communications Manager

Only 28 percent of American women are aware of peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.), a common and dangerous vascular disease that affects approximately nine million Americans and as many as 4.5 million women, according to a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. P.A.D. – or clogged arteries of the legs – is associated with a high risk of heart attack, stroke, amputation and death.

The cross-sectional, population-based telephone survey of 2,501 adults over age 50, included 1,338 women. The majority of women surveyed reported having at least one risk factor for P.A.D., including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and history of smoking. As well, more than one in four reported leg pain, which should usually trigger efforts to evaluate P.A.D. in such a high risk population.

Women were much more likely to be aware of other cardiovascular diseases such as stroke (74 percent), coronary artery disease (65 percent) and heart failure (67 percent). Yet, the risk for P.A.D. is equal to or greater than the risk for these conditions. Female respondents were much more aware of relatively rare diseases that affect far fewer people, including Lou Gehrig’s Disease (36 percent), multiple sclerosis (44 percent) and cystic fibrosis (31 percent).

What is P.A.D.?

P.A.D. occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. This can result in leg muscle pain when walking and disability, amputation and a poor quality of life. Blocked arteries found in people with P.A.D. can be a red flag that other arteries, including those in the heart and brain, may also be blocked – increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Women who reported familiarity with P.A.D. actually know very little about the disease’s potential consequences. Only 27 percent of women familiar with P.A.D. associate the disease with an increased risk of heart attack; only 28 percent associate P.A.D. with a greater risk of stroke; and only 13 percent link P.A.D. with amputation. While people with P.A.D. have high mortality rates, only 14 percent of women familiar with P.A.D. know that P.A.D. is associated with an increased risk of death.

P.A.D. affects both women and men and can strike adults of any age. The risk of P.A.D. is increased in people over age 50, particularly in smokers and former smokers, and in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, a personal history of heart disease or stroke, and in African Americans.

To increase public awareness of P.A.D., the P.A.D. Coalition and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health are conducting a national awareness campaign titled “Stay in Circulation: Take Steps to Learn About P.A.D.” The campaign provides tools for consumers, community groups, medical professionals and health organizations to inform Americans about the risks, symptoms and treatment of P.A.D. New Stay in Circulation resources are available online at

For more information about the survey and other P.A.D. resources, visit or call 866.PAD.INFO (723.4636).

About the P.A.D. Coalition
The Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) Coalition is an alliance of leading health organizations, vascular health professional societies, and government agencies united to raise public and health professional awareness about lower extremity P.A.D. Established in 2004, the P.A.D. Coalition is coordinated by the Vascular Disease Foundation (, a national, not-for-profit section 501(c)(3) organization. The P.A.D. Coalition seeks to improve the prevention, early detection, treatment, and rehabilitation of people with, or at risk for, P.A.D.

The P.A.D. Coalition is supported by the following national sponsors: the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi Pharmaceuticals Partnership; Cordis Endovascular, a division of Cordis Corporation; Abbott Vascular; AstraZeneca; Bard Peripheral Vascular; Baxter Healthcare; BioMedix; Cook, Inc; Edwards Lifesciences; W.L. Gore and Associates; Medtronic; Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals; Omron; and Summit Doppler.


Experts Available for Interviews

Interviews with study's co-authors can be scheduled through Christa Saracco (tel: 303.989.0500;