The Risk of Obesity and Peripheral Artery Disease

The Risk of Obesity and Peripheral Artery Disease

Does being obese put you at higher risk of peripheral artery disease? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes. 

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects blood vessels outside the heart and brain—so those arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, etc. The blood vessels become stiff and narrow, often because of a buildup of fatty deposits, and aren’t able to supply enough oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

A common symptom of PAD is leg pain or cramping when walking or climbing stairs. If PAD is not treated, it can progress to critical limb ischemia (CLI). With CLI, the blockage is so severe that in some cases, limbs have to be amputated.

Researchers learned last year that obesity is among the risk factors for developing PAD with CLI. They found that people with obesity were one and a half times more likely to develop PAD with CLI than those with a normal body mass index. 

The symptoms of PAD

Estimates are that about 6.8 million Americans 40 years old or older have PAD, but many don’t know they have it. The symptoms include:

  • Pain or cramps in legs or hips when walking
  • Sores on the legs or feet that are slow to heal
  • Weak pulse, or lack of a pulse, in feet or legs
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs
  • Shiny or discolored skin on the legs
  • Unusual coldness in your legs or feet
  • In men, erectile dysfunction
  • Slow toenail growth and hair loss on the feet and legs

People with PAD also often have coronary artery disease, which puts them at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

How to lower your PAD risk

  • Lose weight. Although this is often easier said than done, taking off excess pounds can be a big benefit.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is a big risk factor for PAD and many other illnesses. If you smoke and find you can’t quit, please talk to your doctor about options available to help you.
  • Exercise. While this can help, it can be tricky to exercise with the pain of PAD. Patients may need to do several brief exercise sessions interspersed with resting.
  • Control cholesterol. Diet and exercise can help with this, but if it’s not enough, your doctor may suggest a cholesterol-lowering medication.
  • Control blood pressure. Again, diet and exercise are the first choice, but medications can also help.
  • Control diabetes. Work with your doctor to make sure your blood sugar is under control. 

Other risks for PAD can’t really be changed. They include:

  • Age. The older you are, the higher your risk.
  • Genetics. A family history of PAD raises your risk.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to develop PAD than women, although women’s risk catches up after they reach menopause.

If you have questions about blood vessel disorders, feel free to contact us at Palm Vein Center.

For more information on vein diseases and the treatments provided by the specialists at Palm Vein Center or to make an appointment, call 623-201-4777. We look forward to meeting you!

Talk to our team to learn more about the best conservative and interventional treatment options for your vein condition.

The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

For more information on vein diseases and the treatments provided by the specialists at Palm Vein Center or to make an appointment, call 623-201-4777. We look forward to meeting you!