Women & Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Call to Action

About 8 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that, if left untreated, increases heart attack and stroke risks, severely limits walking ability, and causes tissue death requiring limb amputation. The prevalence of PAD is nearly equal between men and women (Figure). Only about 10% of individuals with PAD experience classic, recognized exertional claudication, and many people experience no symptoms at all. As a result, few individuals with PAD receive prompt diagnosis or treatment. “The mortality rate and healthcare costs associated with PAD are comparable to those of heart disease and stroke,” says Alan T. Hirsch, MD. “Women, in particular, suffer an immense burden from PAD, but current data suggest that most women remain unaware of their risk. PAD continues to go largely unrecognized and untreated in women.” An Important Scientific Statement on PAD In the March 20, 2012 issue of Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA), in collaboration with the Vascular Disease Foundation and the P.A.D. Coalition, released a scientific statement on women and PAD. It recommends that healthcare providers proactively increase awareness of and test women at risk for PAD. It also calls for more women-focused research into the disease. “There is a great need to identify women with PAD and those who are at risk for it, especially African-American women, so that we can help lower cardiovascular ischemic event rates,” says Dr. Hirsch, who was the chair of AHA writing group that developed the call-to-action statement. “This may also reduce the loss of independent functional capacity and ischemic amputation rates.” He notes that women in the United States already attend...