Peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.) affects 8 to 12 million people in the United States. African Americans are more than twice as likely as Caucasians to have P.A.D.
The major risk factors for P.A.D. are smoking, age, and having certain diseases or conditions.
Smoking is more closely related to getting P.A.D. than any other risk factor. Your risk for P.A.D. increases four times if you smoke or have a history of smoking. On average, smokers who develop P.A.D. have symptoms 10 years earlier than nonsmokers who develop P.A.D.
Quitting smoking slows the progress of P.A.D. Smoking even one or two cigarettes a day can interfere with P.A.D. treatments. Smokers and people who have diabetes are at highest risk for P.A.D. complications, including gangrene (tissue death) in the leg from decreased blood flow.
As you get older, your risk for P.A.D. increases. Genetic or lifestyle factors cause plaque to build in your arteries as you age.
About 5 percent of U.S. adults who are older than 50 have P.A.D. Among adults aged 65 and older, 12 to 20 percent may have P.A.D. Older age combined with other risk factors, such as smoking or diabetes, also puts you at higher risk.
This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.