Cardiovascular disease is more than a disease of the heart. It can affect any part of your body that relies on nutrient-rich and oxygenated blood to function—that includes your legs, arms, feet, and kidneys. When your arteries are narrowed or blocked by the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque), it can restrict or stop the flow of blood to your body’s tissues and organs causing the following types of cardiovascular disease:
Blockages in the arteries leading to the legs and kidneys are sometimes both referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD) because PAD affects the arteries that carry blood to the periphery of your body—essentially all parts of your body except your heart and head. But a more specific term for blockages in the arteries leading to the kidneys is renal artery disease or, more commonly, renal artery stenosis (RAS).
Left untreated, PAD and RAS can make it difficult to carry out and enjoy your daily activities. But even more important—they can put your life at risk. According to the American Heart Association, people with PAD are four to five times more at risk for heart attacks and strokes. That’s because atherosclerosis affects the entire cardiovascular system. If you have plaque in the arteries in one part of your body, for example, your legs, you probably have it in other organs such as your heart. So it’s very important to identify the symptoms and treat cardiovascular disease in all its forms as early as possible. This may to reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke, limb amputation, or kidney failure down the road.
Both Milton Unick and Ron Robinson had severe leg pain before their heart attacks but did not know they had PAD. But fortunately for these men, their heart attacks led to diagnosis followed by treatment with angioplasty and stents. They went on to enjoy life feeling better than they did before their heart attacks.
If you have symptoms of PAD or RAS—don’t wait—ask your doctor if you are at risk and what you can do about it. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can feel better soon, even if you’ve been in pain for many years.
Finally, take a few minutes to visit the SecondsCount sections on PAD and RAS to learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of these diseases and how you can reduce your risk. You’ll also find helpful resources and tools to feel better and stay healthy.