Harvard Health Letter

Heart health steps also help ward off peripheral artery disease

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Better cardiovascular health may substantially lower your risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study in the November 2018 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. PAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the legs become narrowed or blocked with fatty deposits. About 8.5 million Americans suffer from the condition, which typically causes cramping pain in the legs when walking. For the study, researchers evaluated adherence to the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” guidelines among almost 13,000 people who were free from PAD or other cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. More than 430 PAD cases occurred in this group over about 24 years. Compared with people who did not follow Life’s Simple 7, those with average and optimal adherence cut their risk of PAD by 64% and 91%, respectively. Life’s Simple 7 emphasizes managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting sufficient physical activity, eating better, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking.

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