February 15th, 2012

AHA Scientific Statement Spotlights Peripheral Artery Disease in Women

Although peripheral artery disease (PAD) raises the risk for heart disease and stroke, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated, especially in women, according to a scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association and published in Circulation.

Here are a few highlights of the statement:

  • Although women develop PAD later than men, the total number of women with PAD is greater than the number of men.
  • Like men, most women with PAD do not present with “classic symptoms” of intermittent claudication; rather, many are asymptomatic or have atypical leg symptoms.
  • Women with PAD are more likely than women without PAD to have greater functional impairment and a more rapid functional decline. Women, and black women in particular, have a greater risk for graft failure and limb loss than men.
  • Although women have slightly lower normal ABI levels than men, physicians should use the same diagnostic criteria for PAD in men and women.
  • Although the evidence is limited because of the underrepresentation of women in clinical trials, exercise training is equally effective in men and women.
  • At-risk women should be educated about PAD risk factors, symptoms, and cardiovascular risk by all healthcare providers.

“The rate of deaths and the healthcare costs associated with PAD are at least comparable to those of heart disease and stroke,” said the lead of the author of the AHA statement, Alan Hirsch, in an AHA press release. “Women, in particular, suffer an immense burden from peripheral artery disease, yet current data demonstrate most women still remain unaware of their risk.”

Adapted with permission from Physician’s First Watch.

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