WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Even though it increases
the risk of heart attack or stroke, peripheral artery disease is
often unrecognized and untreated in women, according to an American
Heart Association scientific statement released Wednesday.
Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory disorder caused by a
buildup of fat and other materials in the blood vessels outside the
heart, usually in the legs, feet and arms. If untreated, it can
increase heart attack and stroke risk, severely limit walking
ability, and cause tissue death that leads to limb amputation.
Because women with peripheral artery disease have a twofold to
threefold increased risk of stroke or heart attack, health care
providers should educate and test women at risk for peripheral
artery disease, the statement advised. It also called for more
female-focused research into the disease.
There are too few women enrolled in studies to provide a clear
understanding of how the disease progresses, or to accurately
determine the incidence and prevalence of peripheral artery disease
in women, according to the statement authors.
More studies of peripheral artery disease specifically in women
are needed, and results from previous studies should be pooled to
obtain an adequate sample size of women, they recommended.
The authors also called for research to help determine how
gender may affect the rate of development of peripheral artery
disease, response to medications, and potential benefits of
All heart-health promotion campaigns should provide specific
education about peripheral artery disease screening and treatment
in women, the authors added.
The statement is published Feb. 15 in the journal
Peripheral artery disease affects about 8 million people in the
United States, with nearly equal prevalence among women and
"The rate of deaths and the health care costs associated with [peripheral artery disease] are at least comparable to those of heart disease and stroke," statement lead author Dr. Alan Hirsch, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and community health at the Lillehei Heart Institute at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.
"Women, in particular, suffer an immense burden from peripheral artery disease, yet current data demonstrate most women still remain unaware of their risk," Hirsch added.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
peripheral artery disease.