Check your risk for peripheral arterial disease


reviewed 10/25/2018

PAD Risk Assessment

Answering the following questions can help you learn more about your risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Note: This assessment is not intended to be a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider.

Do you smoke?

If you answered "yes." Smoking is more closely related to developing PAD than any other risk factor. It increases your PAD risk four times.

Do yourself a favor and quit for good. Talk to your doctor if you need help.

If you answered "no." Good for you. You've taken a big step toward avoiding PAD. Smoking is more closely related to developing PAD than any other risk factor.

Do you have diabetes?

If you answered "yes." Diabetes dramatically increases your risk for PAD. If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor about being screened for PAD.

It's very important to keep your diabetes under control. For example, try to keep your two- to three-month average blood sugar—your A1C level—below 7 percent.

In addition, work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy.

If you answered "no." Congratulations. You've avoided a major PAD risk factor.

But since diabetes becomes more common as we age, it's important to stay alert to changes in your health. Watching your weight, exercising regularly and eating healthfully will help you avoid diabetes. Your doctor can offer additional advice.

Are you older than age 50?

If you answered "yes." The risk for PAD increases after your 50th birthday—especially if you have diabetes. If you're over age 50 and have diabetes—or any other risk factor—you should talk to your doctor about being screened for PAD.

If you answered "no." The risk for PAD increases after your 50th birthday.

Do you have high blood pressure?

If you answered "yes." High blood pressure increases your PAD risk—as well as your risk for other conditions, such as heart attack and stroke. Controlling high blood pressure involves healthy eating, exercise, weight control and possibly medication. Talk to your doctor if your blood pressure is too high.

If you answered "no." Good for you. People with high blood pressure are at higher risk for PAD. To keep your blood pressure in the healthy range, watch your diet and weight, get enough exercise, and have your blood pressure checked regularly.

If you answered "I don't know." High blood pressure has no symptoms, but it increases the risk of PAD and other problems associated with unhealthy blood vessels, such as heart attack and stroke.

To find out if your blood pressure is too high, have it checked by a healthcare professional.

Do you have unhealthy cholesterol levels?

If you answered "yes." To reduce your risk of PAD and other health problems, it's important for you to get your cholesterol to a healthy level. It's especially important to keep the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your blood below 100 mg/dL.

There are several ways to control cholesterol, including eating foods that are low in saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising. Your doctor can tell you more.

If you answered “No, my cholesterol is under control.” Good work. Exercising regularly, eating right and controlling your weight will help keep cholesterol in a healthy range.

If you answered "I don't know." High cholesterol has no symptoms, so it's important to have your levels checked routinely. Talk to your doctor about scheduling a blood test to gauge your cholesterol levels.

Do you have heart problems or a family history of heart problems?

If you answered "yes." If you already have heart disease, or have had a heart attack or stroke, you're at increased risk for PAD.

If heart disease runs in your family, your PAD risk is higher than if you come from a family without a history of heart disease—even if you haven't had heart problems yourself.

If you answered "no." By remaining heart-healthy, you've avoided a major PAD risk factor. Heart disease, heart attack or stroke—or a family history of any of these conditions—all increase the risk of PAD.

Are you overweight?

If you answered "yes." Excess weight contributes to PAD as well as other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve your health.

If you answered "no." Congratulations. Stick to a healthy lifestyle and avoid joining a dangerous national trend toward obesity.

If you answered "I don't know." To get an idea of whether you're at a healthy weight, calculate your body mass index .

Do you get little or no exercise?

If you answered "yes." Inactivity is a major risk factor for PAD. To help reduce your risk, look for ways to add exercise to your daily routine. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even regular walking can help. Start with a 5- to 10-minute stroll, then build up to a brisk 30 minutes or more. If you're not used to exercise, talk with your doctor before you start a vigorous exercise program.

If you answered "No, I exercise regularly." Good for you. Remaining physically active throughout your life can help control a number of health concerns, including PAD.

Results

If you answered "no" to every question, congratulations. Your answers indicate that you currently have no risk factors for PAD. But since PAD becomes more common as we age, take care to avoid risk factors in the future.

Each question to which you answered "yes" is one risk factor for PAD. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing PAD, which increases the likelihood of heart attack and stroke. But addressing just one risk factor helps reduce your chances of PAD. It may be a good idea to talk with your doctor about getting screened for PAD.

You should learn more about any questions to which you didn’t know the answer.

This assessment is not a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about your health or your risk for PAD, talk with your provider, regardless of the results listed here.

Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Diabetes Association; American Heart Association

Related stories