American Heart Association rapid access journal report:

Tuesday, December 6, 2005—Being African American can double your risk of developing clogged leg arteries – a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to a study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Our study found that African-American ethnicity was a strong and independent risk factor for peripheral arterial disease,” said lead author Michael H. Criqui, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

In PAD, arteries outside of the heart and brain – most often the legs – become clogged by cholesterol-rich plaque. The classic complaint is intermittent claudication – painful cramping in the hips, thighs or calves that occurs during exercise and eases a few minutes after stopping. When the leg blockage is severe, pain is more constant. Severe PAD can also slow the healing of wounds to the feet and, in severe cases, may lead to amputation.

PAD is a marker for atherosclerosis elsewhere in the body. An estimated eight million Americans have PAD.

Criqui suggested that physicians be alert to the possibility of PAD in African Americans.

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