Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disorder of the blood circulation characterized by decreased blood flow to the limbs due to a narrowing of the arteries. It more commonly involves the lower limbs. As much as the heart and the arteries in limbs may sound unrelated, peripheral artery disease (PAD) can affect your heart health.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
The most common cause of peripheral artery disease (PAD) is atherosclerosis, i.e., a narrowing of the blood vessels due to the formation of a plaque inside the artery. The plaque formation indicates that the blood cholesterol level is high, and all of us are well-aware of the implications of high cholesterol levels in heart disease.
The high cholesterol causing (PAD) can also cause plaque formation in cardiac arteries. It narrows the arteries supplying blood to the heart, eventually leading to coronary artery disease (CAD). With coronary artery disease (CAD), the heart’s blood supply remains restricted, and the heart muscles become weak over time due to insufficient nutrition. This can cause heart failure, a condition in which the heart fails to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. This is how peripheral artery disease (PAD) is associated with a high risk of developing heart disease.
As impossible as it seems to suffer from a heart attack due to having some medical condition in your legs, it can actually happen. PAD can also be a direct cause of heart attack without causing narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the heart.
This happens when a clot from your legs travels to the arteries supplying blood to your heart. The clot blocks the heart’s blood supply, leading to sudden damage to the heart muscles. This damage manifests as a heart attack.
Secondary or Type 2 Heart Attack
Secondary or type 2 heart attack is an uncommon type of heart attack that people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) can experience. While the typical type of heart attack is caused by a sudden blockage of the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart, this type is caused by severe atherosclerosis, blocking 80% or more of the arteries of the heart. This blockage severely restricts the blood flow to the heart muscles, precipitating a heart attack.
In people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) due to atherosclerosis, heart blood vessels’ narrowing can also progress over time. This may finally end up in a secondary heart attack.
If you suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), do not forget to protect your heart health. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, and learn to improve your vascular health. Always speak to your doctor with any concerns.