Porter Regional Hospital hosted a very informative event at the beginning of May that begged the question: are you listening to your legs?
The event was a seminar led by Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Sandeep Sehgal. Dr. Sehgal is board certified in interventional cardiology, general cardiology, nuclear cardiology, endovascular interventions and he is the Chairman of the Department of Cardiology at Porter. You could say that he has an extensive knowledge on the subject of cardiovascular medicine. Many of the evening’s attendees were also his patients.
The main subject matter for the night was peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is a circulatory problem that is caused when plaque, or fatty deposits, builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the body’s extremities – namely the legs. The narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to the legs which causes pain and muscle cramps while walking, or claudication. If left untreated, PAD can lead to critical limb ischemia, which can result in a limb needing to be amputated. Other symptoms of PAD include: leg weakness, slow growth of hair on legs and feet, change of color on the legs, sores on legs and feet that won’t heal, a pale or bluish tint to the legs and feet, and coldness in the legs and feet.
PAD can put individuals at risk for other negative events like stroke, heart attack, and even death.
“When our legs hurt we often think it is due to arthritis,” Dr. Sehgal said. “Cardiovascular disease is not the first thing that we think of when our legs begin to hurt. If we don’t know what signs to look for that point to PAD, we will surely miss them.”
But don’t lose heart, because there are ways to prevent and manage PAD. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in the United States PAD affects eight to 12 million people - that's one in 20 people over the age of 50 and one in three people over the age of 70. Dr. Sehgal said that he is seeing more and more young people getting diagnosed with PAD. Smoking, diabetes, genetics, and age increase the risk of an individual getting PAD.
“This was a subject that we never used to associate with young people, but now people are being diagnosed with PAD at younger and younger ages,” Dr. Sehgal said. “It is the lifestyles that we have now. We are bringing these diseases on ourselves because we aren’t taking care of our bodies.”
Putting things in perspective, there is a higher mortality rate for individuals with PAD than for individuals with breast cancer.
There are treatments for PAD. Lifestyle changes, certain medications, and special procedures like stent implantations can reduce symptoms, improve the quality of life for an individual, and prevent the harsh consequences that can come from untreated PAD.
Clarence Melion is one of Dr. Sehgal's patients, and he came to the seminar to learn and support the good doctor. Melion is a heart attack survivor with seven stents in arteries around his heart.
"I had a heart attack in 2007 and Dr. Sehgal was my cardiologist," Melion said. "He's a very good doctor and he and his team saved my life."
If you feel that you may have PAD, consult your doctor. You can also find out more about PAD and other cardiovascular diseases, treatments, preventative services, and more through Porter’s Center for Cardiovascular Medicine.
Guests had the opportunity before and after the seminar to sign up for a free ankle-brachial index screening that will be conducted at Porter’s Center for Cardiovascular Medicine. This screening checks for PAD in the legs.