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When common pains are actually problems with the heart | Wear The Gown

Peripheral artery disease is a problem that often goes unrecognized by patients.

SAN ANTONIO — Recognizing the signs of heart disease when they happen is extremely important in saving one's life.

When we talk about heart disease, many people think of conditions that come on suddenly like a heart attack, stroke and shortness of breath. If that happens, don't ignore them. You need to be seen right away. 

Dr. Anand Prasad of University Hospital said, "They end up coming to the hospital too late when they've already had damage to their heart or in cases, let's say, of a stroke. They come in when they've already had damage to the brain," said Dr. Anand Prasad who is an interventional cardiologist with University Health and UT Health San Antonio. 

He says a condition that is not as well known or recognized is peripheral artery disease. Dr. Prasad added, "Plaque buildup due to most often cholesterol based plaque in the arteries that can happen in any artery in the body, so that can happen to your heart, arteries, your coronary arteries, and that causes heart attacks and chest pain." 

Some symptoms of PAD include painful cramping in your hips, thighs or calves, leg numbness or weakness, coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially on one side, no pulse or weak pulse in your legs and feet, and pain when using your arms when doing manual tasks.

That can happen in your heart's coronary arteries, arteries that go to the neck, arteries in your legs and even in your arms. But a more extreme form of PAD that can present itself is called critical limb ischemia. 

Dr. Prasad said, "That is when there is such insufficient flow in the limb that you're at risk of losing the limb, and it's often related to ulcerations or wounds that can develop, particularly in people with diabetes."  

There is a test called the Ankle Brachial Index, or ABI, where you compare the blood pressure in the leg to the blood pressure in the arm. Dr. Prasad told us, "If the pressure is lower in your legs than your arms, then you may have poor circulation and poor blood flow." 

Dr. Prasad says those with heart disease are more likely to develop PAD and should talk to their doctor about what to do to lower their risk.

For more information on family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find more Wear The Gown stories here.

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