Two out of three Canadians not aware of peripheral arterial disease

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Two out of three Canadians are not aware of peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.), a common vascular disease that affects as many as 800,000 Canadians, according to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Commonly known as “hardening of the arteries,” P.A.D. occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. As a result, P.A.D. may cause leg muscle pain when walking and lead to disability, amputation and a poor quality of life. The blocked arteries found in people with P.A.D. are a warning sign that other arteries, including those in the heart and brain, may also be blocked, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

In a cross-sectional, population-based telephone survey of 501 adults over age 50, researchers found that public awareness of P.A.D. (36 percent) is markedly lower than for other cardiovascular diseases such as stroke (72 percent), coronary artery disease (51 percent) and heart failure (48 percent). Yet, the risk for P.A.D. is equal to or greater than the risk for these conditions.

Few Canadians know that having P.A.D. significantly increases the risk for heart attack, stroke, amputation and death, the survey showed. Only one in five adults who were familiar with P.A.D. associates the disease with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or death. Only 12 percent know that P.A.D. can lead to amputation.

P.A.D. affects both women and men and can strike adults of any age. The risk of P.A.D. is increased in people over age 50, particularly in smokers and former smokers, and in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and a personal history of heart disease or stroke.

“The study’s findings reinforce the need for national efforts to educate Canadians about peripheral arterial disease,” stated Marge Lovell, RN, lead author and clinical trials nurse at the London Health Sciences and Centre in London, Ontario. “If Canadians are not informed about P.A.D. and its devastating consequences, they will be less likely to take steps to avoid it.”

The study found that most Canadians do not know the causes or risk factors of P.A.D. Cigarette smoking and diabetes contribute to the development and progression of P.A.D., a fact unknown even by many survey respondents who reported familiarity with the disease. Further, half of those familiar with P.A.D. do not know that high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are also risk factors.

In addition to Ms. Lovell, study authors are Kenneth Harris, MD, Thomas Forbes, MD, Beth Abramson, MD, Gwen Twillman, Paul Schroeder, MA, Emile R. Mohler, III, MD, Michael H. Criqui, MD, MPH, and Alan T. Hirsch, MD. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology is the official journal of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, a member of the P.A.D. Coalition.

The P.A.D. Coalition funded the study through grants from Sanofi-Aventis Canada, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Cordis Endovascular, a division of Cordis Corporation.

For more information on P.A.D. and available resources, visit

About the P.A.D. Coalition
The Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) Coalition is an alliance of more than 75 North American health organizations, professional societies, government agencies and corporations united to raise public and health professional awareness about lower extremity P.A.D. Established in 2004, the P.A.D. Coalition is a division of the Vascular Disease Foundation (, a national, not-for-profit section 501(c)(3) organization. The P.A.D. Coalition seeks to improve the prevention, early detection, treatment, and rehabilitation of people with, or at risk for, P.A.D.


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