Experts Say Circulatory Disorder is Under-Studied in Women

Experts Say Circulatory Disorder is Under-Studied in WomenDespite literature that ties the risk of heart attack or stroke to peripheral artery disease (PAD), the condition often goes unrecognized and untreated in women, the American Heart Association (AHA) announced on Wednesday, February 15.

The National Library of Medicine describes the condition as one that occurs when the blood vessels around the heart begin to narrow. The disease begins when plaque, a substance made up of fat and cholesterol, builds up on the arteries that bring blood to the arms and legs. The disease has been known to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and transient ischemic attack.

If untreated, PAD can severely limit walking ability, and cause cause tissue death that may lead to limb amputation.

The AHA statement advised that because women with PAD tend to have a threefold increased risk of stroke or heart attack, healthcare providers should do more to educate and test women who may be at risk. More female-focused research was also encouraged.

Too few studies of the disease's effect on women have led to a cloudy understanding of how PAD progresses, and accurately determining the incidence and prevalence of the illness in women has also been difficult, they statement authors wrote.

In conclusion, the authors stated all heart-health promotion campaigns should provide specific education about PAD screening and treatment in women.

"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," said 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. "Women, in particular, suffer an immense burden from peripheral artery disease, yet current data demonstrate most women still remain unaware of their risk."