Women's Health

Arterial Disease is Constantly Undiagnosed in Women

Arterial Disease is Constantly Undiagnosed in Women

Many women in United States is having peripheral artery disease (PAD), out of which, many are not diagnosed. The American Heart Association has called for a ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign to have increased participation to identify and diagnose this disease in women. The association also invites more and more women to participate in PAD studies. “The major goal for this is to increase the awareness among women about the disease”, says Alan T. Hirsch, MD, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and community health at University of Minnesota Medical School. He also adds that the death rate and cost of treatment for PAD is similar to that of heart disease and stroke.

PAD is caused by the occlusion of blood supply to the body’s extremities by narrowing and clogging of arteries with fatty plaque. This disease commonly affects the arteries of the legs and pelvis. Very few people realize the impact of artery damage in the legs. This damage is as serious as any damage of the artery that leads directly to the heart or brain.

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Some of the important findings in the study are:

  • The risk of heart diseases and stroke increases almost three times in women who have PAD, when compared to women who do not have the condition. If left untreated, this can lead to amputation.
  • Age increases the likelihood of developing PAD in both men and women. People above the age of 80-years-old have the highest risk of PAD.
  • PAD affects the mobility of women more than men and is seen more in African-American women.


The most common symptoms of this disease include leg pain and cramping while walking and exercising. But in most of the people with PAD it remains asymptomatic. “This may be the reason why many people do not get appropriate treatment”, remarks Hirsch. Blood flow to the extremities can be restored by drug therapies, supervised exercises and surgery.

Some of the common risk factors for this disease include:

“As the disease progresses, it may lead to functional disability, therefore, adequate treatment should be provided to the patients”, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. According to her, women who are at risk of the artery disease should be screened. More specific research is needed in this area to understand the course of the disease in women.