Free, online self-assessment quiz helps assess health and lifestyle risks for PAD

Interventional Radiologists Recommend That Seniors, African-Americans, Diabetics Take Online Quiz, Get Screened If Needed

As recent medical studies continue to highlight the seriousness of peripheral arterial disease (or PAD) and its association with heart attack, stroke and early mortality, the Society of Interventional Radiology Foundation recommends that older Americans, smokers and diabetics take its free, online self-assessment quiz. This simple quiz -- along with appropriate diagnosis and treatment -- can prevent PAD from getting worse and help reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and early death.

PAD, which affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States, occurs when plaque accumulates in arteries that supply blood to areas of the body other than the heart and brain. Since plaque blocks the smaller leg arteries first, PAD is considered a red flag for several life-threatening vascular diseases, such as heart attack (the number one killer in this country) and stroke; it can also result in the loss of limb(s). Symptoms -- such as leg pain while walking, numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, coldness in the lower legs and feet, or ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don't heal -- could be PAD warning signs. The disease's progression results in death for about one-third of patients.

Seniors may typically dismiss warning symptoms as signs of getting older; however, just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs mean that one could be at risk for heart attack or stroke. African-Americans are twice as likely to develop PAD. And, individuals with diabetes are especially susceptible to PAD because diabetes affects every vascular bed in the body and increases the risk for accelerated formation of plaque build-up in the lining of the arteries -- placing 18.2 million Americans at risk.

The online quiz at SIRF's Legs for Life(R) Web site (www.legsforlife.org) helps assess health, family and lifestyle risks for PAD. The higher one's score, the more important it is for that individual to discuss the quiz's results with his or her doctor.

Legs for Life(R) -- a community health and public information program of SIR Foundation -- began a decade ago because interventional radiologists -- vascular experts who treat PAD -- recognized that the disease is a major public health problem with a growing incidence, yet awareness among the general public and nonvascular health care providers is low. The primary goals of Legs for Life(R) are to educate the public, primary care physicians and the medical community; identify patients at risk through screenings; and strengthen collaborative relationships among health care professionals who treat this condition.

Legs for Life(R) offers a free national screening program dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of the community with the early detection of PAD during September's national PAD awareness month. In September, limited free testing is available for PAD at Legs for Life(R) sites around the country. During a screening, the ankle brachial index (ABI) -- a simple and painless test -- is used; the ABI compares the blood pressure in the legs to the blood pressure in the arms to determine how well the blood is flowing and if additional tests are needed. A recent report has shown that the ABI may improve the accuracy of cardiovascular risk prediction beyond the traditional Framingham Risk Score.

In many cases, PAD can be treated with medication (such as blood thinners or drugs that dilate an affected artery), lifestyle changes (such as smoking cessation), diet and a structured exercise program. With early detection, patients could see an interventional radiologist when intervention is most effective and less invasive treatments are an option. If needed, interventional radiologists can perform minimally invasive angioplasty and/or stenting to open a blocked artery in the leg and restore blood flow.

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