Addressing Unmet Needs in Peripheral Artery Disease

As an aging America faces rising rates of obesity and diabetes, people may also find themselves facing a dangerous cardiovascular disease.

Peripheral artery disease is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body, and it affects more than 200 million people worldwide. It can happen in any blood vessels but is more commonly found in the legs and feet. The disease can cause pain, impaired mobility and even the loss of limbs.

So explains the Partnership to Advance Cardiovascular Health’s newest policy paper, Addressing Unmet Needs in Peripheral Artery Disease.  The paper examines the risk factors that can lead to peripheral artery disease, the primary means of diagnosis and treatment, and the challenges that exist for patients seeking treatment.

Risk Factors

People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease, as are Black Americans and Hispanics. Controllable risk factors include smoking, unmanaged high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Health care providers may use imagining tests or noninvasive exams that measure the blood pressure in the ankles and arms. Following diagnosis, the paper explains, treatment for peripheral artery disease can include lifestyle changes, medication and interventional surgical procedures.

Disparities in Care

Peripheral artery disease is more common among Black patients, whose rate of diagnosis among people over 40 is twice as high as that of other ethnicities. The paper notes that, when diagnosed, Black Americans are more likely to undergo a lower extremity amputation and less likely to receive limb-saving surgical procedures than other patient groups.


Many people misinterpret the symptoms of peripheral artery disease, and even health care professionals may struggle to correctly diagnose the disease. Even though peripheral artery disease affects one in five Americans older than age 60, only about 25% of the general public is aware of it.

Finding Solutions

The paper outlines several steps for improving the diagnosis and treatment of peripheral artery disease:  

  • Campaigns to increase public awareness would empower more patients to consult their health care providers about peripheral artery disease and to receive proper testing and diagnosis. 
  • Increasing awareness among at-risk communities, including clinical trials and community-based research studies of Black Americans, can reduce disparities in diagnosis and treatment.  
  • Expanding education and training for health care providers on the signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease would ensure a timelier diagnosis. 
  • Another solution is improving health care policy coverage to include access to Peripheral artery disease diagnostics and treatments.  

During February, American Heart Month, it is more important than ever that this serious disease receive greater public awareness. 

To learn more, read Addressing Unmet Needs in Peripheral Artery Disease or watch Peripheral Artery Disease 101.


Categorized in: