What to do?
There are some things you can do for yourself, like rest when you exercise, and quitting smoking. And there are some things your doctor can do, like giving you medicine to control blood pressure, or to dilate your arteries, and others to control cholesterol.
Surgery is an option too, although most cases can be helped without surgery.
So, let’s say you take care of your PAD problem.
Does that mean you no longer have any worries about the rest of your arteries?
No, not according to the research paper by the NYU/Duke team.
“We have to remember that atherosclerosis or blockages in your artery, or plaque buildup in your artery, is not a local problem, it is a global problem,” Berger said.
He spelled out what that means for patients:
“I think why this is extraordinarily important for patients is because in the past people would have an intervention done – for example, they would have bypass surgery, they would have a stent placed, they would have any type of intervention to open up an artery – and patients would think they were cured.”
“Just because one area is fixed,” he said, “does not mean you are disease free.”
“If you have any type atherosclerosis or any type of blockage and you don’t optimize your lifestyle, if you don’t take the necessary medications, I think you are at significantly higher risk of having a heart attack, or stroke, or death,” he said.
In the case of the paper on which Berger worked, the issue was PAD leading to carotid artery stenosis, in essence an issue in your legs that somehow travels to the artery that feeds your brain.
The consequences of that can be dire.
Like stroke, for instance, which is caused when the blood flow is cut off to your brain.
Fairly quickly after that, brain cells start to die, and can lead to vision and speech problems, or paralysis or even death.
Like PAD, carotid issues may not have any symptoms. The first time you know you have a problem is when you have a stroke.
“I think what people can take away from this,” said Berger, “is that if you have a vascular disease in one location, you are much more likely to have a vascular disease in another location.”
 Stedman’s Medical Dictionary