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Who Is at Risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.) affects millions of people in the United States. The disease is more common in African Americans than any other racial or ethnic group.

The major risk factors for P.A.D. are smoking, older age, and having certain diseases or conditions.


Smoking is the main risk factor for P.A.D. Your risk of P.A.D. increases four times if you smoke or have a history of smoking.

On average, people who smoke and develop P.A.D. have symptoms 10 years earlier than people who don't smoke and 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. People who smoke and people who have diabetes are at highest risk for P.A.D. complications, such as gangrene (tissue death) in the leg from decreased blood flow.

Older Age

Older age also is a risk factor for P.A.D. Plaque builds up in your arteries as you age. About 1 in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has P.A.D. The risk continues to rise as you get older.

Older age combined with other risk factors, such as smoking or diabetes, also puts you at higher risk for P.A.D.

Diseases and Conditions

Many diseases and conditions can raise your risk of P.A.D., including:

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Last Updated: August 2, 2011