Peripheral Artery Disease, the Cold, & You

Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD, affects 1 in every 20 adults over the age of 50. PAD occurs when fatty deposits (plaque) clog the arteries of the legs. Not only does this increase your risk for heart attack or stroke, but it can cause major complications in your legs—especially when it’s cold out.

The problem with PAD is that many people either exhibit no symptoms or they ignore them. After all, it’s easy to blame your cold feet on the winter weather. But the early signs of PAD should not be ignored. Along with feeling cold or numb, other signs of PAD include, leg pain, cramping, heaviness, or tiredness when walking or climbing stairs, leg pain that disrupts sleep, and color changes in the feet or legs.

Over time, symptoms get worse and you may begin to notice poor nail growth and sores or wounds that heal slowly or not at all. Foot and leg infections in people suffering from peripheral artery disease can even result in amputation. Do not write these signs off as the general pains of aging. Having cold feet is not normal! 

If you have perpetually cold feet, it’s time to see a foot doctor and get checked for PAD. Your provider will ask about your increased risk factors such as whether you are a smoker or former smoker, have diabetes, have chronic high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have a personal history of heart disease. 

Your foot doctor can perform several simple tests to see if you have peripheral artery disease. They may check the pulse in both your legs, comparing them to each other and the pulse in your arms. If the pulse is weaker in your legs or your legs are different temperatures, this is a good indication that you may have blocked arteries.

Treatment for peripheral artery disease is usually based on lifestyle changes and managing other factors such as your blood pressure or cholesterol. Medications may be prescribed to help eliminate pain or reduce the chance of blood clots. In extreme cases, special procedures or surgeries may be required.

Don’t block yourself from an active future with blocked arteries! If you think you have risk factors for PAD, call the FAAWC today. It’s never too early to start yourself on a healthier path and get yourself checked. Remember, cold feet are not just a result of the weather. Call today!

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