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Peripheral vascular disease often unrecognized in women. Who should be tested?

Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women above the age of 25 in the United States, taking more female lives each year than all forms of cancer. Yet many women go undiagnosed until they experience a heart attack or stroke because early warning signs are either non-existent or unrecognized.

A non-invasive test involving the legs can help identify peripheral vascular disease even before symptoms appear.
Egor Gribanov (cc-by-2.0)

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), a condition in which plaque begins to build up in the arteries that feed the legs and arms, is one such early warning sign of future serious cardiovascular problems that may be overlooked in women. Symptoms of PVD include pain in the legs and hips while walking, numbness or weakness in the legs, burning or tingling in their feet and toes while resting, cold legs and feet, or sores on the feet that do not heal. However, between 50-90% of women do not experience symptoms with this condition.

A simple, non-invasive test, the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test, can identify peripheral vascular disease risk even when symptoms do not exist and help prevent an early death or major suffering from a heart attack or stroke.

The Society of Interventional Radiology recommends a PVD test for people with the following risk factors:

  • Are over age 50
  • Have a family history of vascular disease, such as PVD (also known as Peripheral Arterial Disease or PAD), aneurysm, heart attack or stroke
  • Have high cholesterol and/or high lipid blood test
  • Have diabetes
  • Have ever smoked or smoke now
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have a personal history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or other vascular disease
  • Have trouble walking that involves cramping or tiredness in the muscle with walking or exercising, which is relieved by resting
  • Have pain in the legs or feet that awaken them at night

For more information on the Ankle-Brachial Index test, see Dr. Oz recommended test #2: Ankle-Brachial Index here on

Free Peripheral Vascular Disease Screenings in Indianapolis
The Society of Interventional Radiology Foundation operates a national free PVD screening program called Legs For Life. St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and Moorseville participates in Legs for Life, offering free PVD screenings on specific dates during the year.

Article: St. Francis Hospital - Mooresville offering free PVD screenings May 14, 2011

St Francis offers the free Legs for Life screenings to adults 50 years of age or older who are not already being treated by a cardiologist or vascular surgeon. Call their Cardiac Screening Center at 317-782-4422 for more information


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