Researchers examined risk factors for PAD progression in large blood vessels (LV-PAD) and in small blood vessels (SV-PAD). PAD is characterized by clogged arteries outside the heart or brain - most often in the legs. An estimated 8 million people in the United States have PAD.
When large leg vessels are involved, the classic symptom is painful cramping in the hips, thighs or calves that occurs during exercise and eases after a few minutes of rest. With small vessels, the feet may be cool to the touch, heal slowly when injured, and in extreme cases require amputation.
Researchers identified several risk factors that influence the evolution of LV-PAD. Smoking appeared to be the most powerful predictor that PAD would get worse.
"Smoking cessation is the most efficient way to slow the progression of PAD, along with altering cholesterol levels through diet, exercise and medication," said study lead author Victor Aboyans, M.D., Ph.D. "By highlighting and focusing preventive efforts on the risk factors, we can improve the prognosis."
Aboyans a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Dupuytren University Hospital in Limoges, France conducted this study while a visiting scholar in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
He and colleagues examined 403 men and women (average age 69) with LV-PAD and 290 with SV-PAD (average age 68) who were previously suspected of having PAD and underwent evaluation. For the current analysis, results from these initial examinations were compared with new tests performed an average of 4.6 years later.