Close to 8.5 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from the limiting effects of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), a common arterial condition that causes the passageways to become blocked with plaque. For many years, it has been common knowledge that PAD is mainly a male-dominated condition; however, new studies have shown that although women may be less at risk for developing PAD in the first place, they may experience more severe symptoms forcing them to get treatment. PAD and atherosclerosis (the slow buildup of plaque) are both common, yet often ignored, health issues women and men experience that you should look out for as you age.
Even though PAD affects millions of people each year, men and women alike are still slow to get diagnosed. That’s why USA Vascular Centers prides itself on providing helpful information for people at risk of PAD. When patients know what signs and symptoms to look out for, they can get help sooner. Early diagnosis and treatment of PAD can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, or amputation.
What Are the Major Risk Factors of PAD?
Like any disease, it’s important to understand what could increase your risk for developing peripheral artery disease. Major risk factors include a mix of both genetic and lifestyle factors such as:
- Over the age of 50
- Current or former smoker
- Unmanaged blood pressure or cholesterol levels
- Family history of vascular disease
- Are of African-American descent
- Elevated plaque levels
Many of these risk factors may not seem gender or age based at first look; however, if you delve into the numbers you can see that it can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely to be cigarette smokers over women. In addition, the largest group of smokers is between the ages of 45 to 64 which is when people tend to develop arterial conditions like PAD. Peripheral artery disease is one of the many health issues caused by smoking. In another report, the CDC stated that men who are older than 65 are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, African-American men are at the highest risk for both diabetes and PAD.
When you start examining major risk factors for PAD, you start to notice how connected and intertwined they truly are. If you’re a smoker or are diabetic, regardless of your gender, you should try to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Also, you should get regular angiograms to monitor plaque buildup and write down changes in mobility or other PAD symptoms. Remember, peripheral artery disease is just one of many health issues caused by smoking. Quitting smoking can help you avoid many women’s and men’s health issues over 40.
Are Men or Women More at Risk for Developing PAD?
Despite the fact that men are more likely to develop PAD than women, it has been recently found that women may be at an increased risk of experiencing symptoms more severely. In a 2018 study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, they reported that the number of women with atherosclerosis have been increasing. The study claims two reasons why this may be happening. The first reason for this increase may be caused by women living longer than men, and the second is that women visit the doctor more frequently when compared to men.
Unfortunately, it has also been found that atherosclerosis in men is more deadly, plaque buildup in the arterial canals, than women. Men also tend to get it at a younger age than women. However, more women tend to live with this arterial buildup for years and experience severe, chronic symptoms.
Are Men Less Likely to Report Early Signs or Symptoms of PAD?
Yes, men are less likely to report early signs or symptoms of PAD based on two factors: not understanding that decreased mobility, leg pain, or other symptoms are associated with PAD and not visiting the doctor as often as women do. Unfortunately, women may be able to get a diagnosis from their doctor earlier just because they are physically seeing them more often than men. Another result of men getting diagnosed and treated later than women, is that men are more likely to undergo lower extremity amputations than women. When atherosclerosis in men and women is not treated early on, amputation of the affected leg may be a patient’s only choice. This is just one of the reasons why PAD data tends to be skewed.
Peripheral artery disease amputation rates are often larger than people first think. Over 1.6 million Americans have lost their legs to due vascular conditions like PAD.
The fix: men need to consult their doctor frequently especially if they know they are at an increased risk. Managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as eating a balanced diet, as well as getting enough exercise, can help lower your risk of PAD. Overall, noting symptoms you’ve been experiencing and telling a doctor can help lower the peripheral artery disease amputation rates.
Gender and Stroke Risk
You may be wondering, “which gender has more heart attacks or strokes” and this is where it flips. It is a well-known fact that although atherosclerosis in men is quite common, women are more at risk for undergoing a heart attack or stroke. It can be shocking to learn that your gender and stroke risk may coincide. According to the Texas Heart Institute, women are 50% more likely to die than men within the first year after having a heart attack. Peripheral artery disease can potentially cause a heart attack or stroke due to blocked passageways in the arteries. If they become fully blocked, blood and oxygen are not able to flow freely. Usually, PAD will only affect the lower extremities; however, fully blocked arteries can block oxygen and nutrients from other organs including the stomach, lungs, kidneys, or brain.
It’s crucial to address atherosclerosis in women and men early so that stents can be placed within the arteries to open narrowed channels. This can decrease both men and women’s risk of heart attack or stroke.
Gender and Recovery From PAD
Before jumping into a treatment strategy, your doctor will want to try changing lifestyle factors that may be causing plaque buildup. Your doctor will determine the severity of PAD and recommend you to quit smoking, eat healthy, exercise more frequently, and take medications to lower blood or cholesterol levels. If these do not decrease the plaque levels in your arteries, they may try a nonsurgical procedure like stent angioplasty.
However, you can find studies that show that changing certain lifestyle factors to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis in women and men can differ based on their gender. A 2016 study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine showed that women have more difficulty achieving long-term abstinence than men. Due to the fact that recovery from PAD could be contingent on abstaining from smoking, women may face more obstacles recovering from PAD than men. In addition, women may have a tough time losing weight which could help slow plaque buildup and increase mobility. With these factors in mind, you can see how recovery from PAD without a treatment like stent angioplasty could be difficult for women.
Is Stent Angioplasty Successful for Both Men and Women?
Yes, stent angioplasty is extremely successful at treating atherosclerosis in women and men despite contradicting studies. According to a recent WebMD study, reported that doctors used to say women responded negatively to stenting procedures because women have narrower arteries than men therefore, old tools and techniques may have contributed to poor outcomes in the past. The studies show that data collected in the right way and the use of precise tools in stent angioplasty procedures contributed to better success and recovery for both men and women.
How Stent Angioplasty Can Positively Impact Your Overall Life
Stent angioplasty is commonly used to restore the flow of blood to partially or fully blocked arteries due to atherosclerosis in women and men. The non-surgical procedure is fast, virtually painless, minimally invasive, and highly effective. Stent angioplasty involves inserting a tiny tube, also known as a catheter, into the affected artery. This gives the doctor the ability to implant a small mesh stent that is expanded by a tiny balloon. As the stent expands, it compresses the formation of plaque so that the blood can flow freely through the artery. This opening can help prevent gangrene, heart attacks, or stroke.
Whether you have been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease or are in the early process of recognizing symptoms, it’s important to understand your treatment options, especially non-surgical ones. USA Vascular Centers has a team of experienced vascular specialists that provide non-surgical PAD treatment options in facilities across the nation. Doctors at USA Vascular Centers utilize only the most precise and innovative technology to treat peripheral artery disease. If you want to learn more about stent angioplasty or PAD diagnosis, give our experts a call at 888.773.2193 or schedule an initial consultation online.