Leg pain can be a heart warning sign

April 2, 2007 at 4:08 PM
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ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 2 (UPI) -- For some, leg pain from peripheral arterial disease can be an early warning sign for a heart attack or a stroke, says a U.S. expert.

Most people think clogged artery disease, or arteriosclerosis, only happens in the heart. In actuality, it's like gray hair, which appears all over the head not just on one side, according to Dr. James Stanley, director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor.

Nearly a quarter of people who have leg pain due to PAD will be dead in five years, mostly due to heart attacks and other heart problems. But for those whose leg pain keeps them from walking even short distances, the odds are even worse: as many as half will die by five years, Stanley said in a statement.

Nearly 30 million U.S. adults have some form of PAD, though the vast majority are "silent" cases that don't cause pain.

Risk factors -- the same as for heart attack and stroke -- include:

-- being over the age of 50.

-- smoking.

-- diabetes.

-- high blood pressure.

-- high cholesterol.

-- overweight or obesity.

Even though PAD makes people's legs hurt or feel tired when they walk, one of the best treatments is to walk more, advised Stanley.

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