Researchers are reporting that African-Americans have a significantly higher lifetime risk of peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.)—a condition in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries—than whites and Hispanics. The findings demonstrate that race is a strong factor in P.A.D. risk, they say.
P.A.D. can cause painful cramping or leg numbness and in its most severe form can result in gangrene, leg amputation, and sometimes death. It can often progress without symptoms. In the new study, the researchers analyzed data on P.A.D. from six community-based studies in the United States and included 38,154 people. The data came from long-running NHLBI-supported studies such as the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, the Framingham Heart Study, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. The scientists determined that lifetime risk of P.A.D. varies considerably by race, sex, age, smoking status, and the presence of other diseases such as diabetes. In particular, the study showed that the risk of P.A.D. is about 30% for black men and 28% for black women, with lower but still-substantial risks for Hispanics and whites.
The researchers also developed a risk calculator to help identify people who are at high risk for P.A.D. who might benefit from diagnostic screening. Their study, funded by the American Heart Association, appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.