Leg Cramps Can be Red Flag for Heart Disease
By Interventional Cardiologist Behzad Molavi, M.D.
Sitting, standing, walking, and running all provide opportunities for leg pain. But did you know that leg pain could also be the result of, and lead to, Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.)? Peripheral arterial disease is a common vascular condition that can be an indicator of heart disease with devastating health consequences.
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 with walking, a disability, amputation, or 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.
Everyone over age 50 is at risk for P.A.D. Risk increases if a person:
• Is a current or previous smoker
• Has diabetes
• Has high blood pressure
• Has abnormal blood cholesterol
• Is African American
• Has a family or personal history of coronary heart disease or stroke
P.A.D. is a silent disease for many individuals, often causing no recognizable symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically include one or more of the following:
• “Claudication” – fatigue, heaviness, tiredness or cramping in the leg muscles (calf, thigh or buttocks) that occurs during activity such as walking and goes away with rest.
• Foot or toe pain at rest that often disturbs sleep.
• Skin wounds or ulcers on the feet or toes that are slow to heal (or that do not heal for eight to 12 weeks).
While individuals with P.A.D. may have trouble walking, recent studies show that a structured walking program is one of the best treatments for reducing leg pain or cramps (claudication). Over time, a structured walking program is often more effective and can work better than medicine or surgery in helping people with P.A.D. walk longer and further without having to stop due to pain. People with P.A.D. must also work closely with their health care providers to manage cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and diabetes.
Some people with undiagnosed P.A.D. have difficultly walking and unfortunately think it’s just a sign of aging. Through timely detection and proper treatment, walking ability can be improved and heart attacks and strokes can be prevented.
Dr. Molavi is the area’s only Interventional Cardiologist and Peripheral Vascular Disease Specialist. He works in the office of High Plains Heart & Vascular Center in Brighton at Platte Valley Medical Center. For more information or to schedule an in-office PAD consultation, call (303) 659-7000. High Plains Heart & Vascular Center is located at 1600 Prairie Center Parkway, Suite 370, in Brighton.
FREE P.A.D. Screening
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
In coalition with Platte Valley Medical Center, staff from High Plains Heart & Vascular Center will offer free P.A.D. screens during the hospital’s Flu Clinic on Saturday, October 9, in the Conference Center. For more information about P.A.D., visit www.padcoalition.org .