Low-Income Minorities at Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease

Study urges importance of education, screenings to help curb amputations in worst cases

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FRIDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) - Low-income minorities with blood flow problems are at higher risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD) and amputations, a new study reports.

People with PAD have fatty build-ups in the arteries, which can harden the arteries. This can cause disruptions in the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the body. When circulation is restricted, symptoms such as cramped or tired arms and legs can occur.

Initial symptoms of PAD may include difficulty walking, and when more severe, PAD can cause painful foot ulcers, infections and even gangrene, which could require amputation. People with PAD may also be at a higher risk of death from heart attack or stroke.

People often go to the emergency room for care when PAD advances. Unfortunately, by the time a person with PAD goes to the emergency room, amputation may be the only option.

In a new study published in the January issue of the Journal for Vascular Surgery, researchers reviewed cases of 240,740 minority patients with an annual income of less than $25,000 who had lower extremity ischemia, where blood flow and oxygen was not getting to the legs. Two-thirds of the patients had to have vascular grafts, and the other third had major amputation.

"We found that patients from low-income areas, Medicaid and Medicare patients, and non-teaching hospitals had more amputation rates. Patients with Medicaid also presented more commonly with gangrene," Mohammad Hamed Eslami, assistant professor of surgery at UMass Medical School in Worcester, Mass., said in a prepared statement.

Eslami emphasized the importance of educating people -- especially the poor -- about the signs and symptoms of PAD and offering screenings to the underserved to help decrease amputations.

According to the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS), people who are older than 40 years; who have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity or atherosclerosis; who smoke; and who have a family history of vascular disease are at risk for developing PAD.

If you experience symptoms of PAD in your legs, see a vascular surgeon.

According to the SVS, walking, being physically active, eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and taking recommended medications to improve walking distance can help prevent PAD.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about peripheral artery disease.

SOURCE: Society for Vascular Surgery, news release, January, 2007

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