Elizabeth Beard - May I Also Suggest…..National Wear Red Shoe Day?
Elizabeth Beard has been both a caregiver of family members with cardiovascular disease, and is a survivor of PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease). She writes in honor of National Wear Red Day.
When most people hear about National Wear Red Day, they think of heart disease and stroke.
For women like me however, we feel like there is a big party being thrown, but very little attention is paid to our attendance. I received the invitation by surviving a bypass. When I tell people I had a triple bypass, I have to explain that it was not my heart. You see, I have PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease). My bypass was my abdominal aorta and both of my femoral arteries. The medical term for this surgery is: “Bi-Femoral Aortic Bypass,” more affectionately called an “upside down Y.”
Physicians assume that the incidence of PAD is low in women, much like they used to view heart disease. It has been neglected by primary physicians, gynecologists and even cardiologists. The initial symptoms are just not as dramatic as having a heart attack or stroke. In fact, there are no initial symptoms that jump out at you. When the first symptom shows up it is usually in the form of “Intermittent Claudication” (leg pain during exertion), and even then many people miss this sign or attribute it to some other reason.
The fact is PAD is caused by Atherosclerosis. Some studies have shown that many women who are hospitalized and die of a heart attack in fact had undiagnosed PAD. The death rate is higher for women with PAD.
Diagnosis and treatment of PAD is relatively simple and inexpensive yet the very health care professionals that care for women yearly do not test them for this disease. Women between the ages of 50-70 have a higher prevalence of PAD than men and we die from it more often. The prognosis for women with PAD is not a good one. If you survive it, you will more than likely (without treatment) end up with limb amputations or your quality of life will be severely affected as mine has been.
I speak out now for all of the women that live with PAD and feel like they are not a part of this day. My sisters – you are a part of this day. It is time for our disease and disabilities to be recognized along with heart disease and stroke as the number one killer of women.
Things to know – for you and your doctor:
1. Smoking – Almost all women with PAD are or were heavy smokers. If a physician is treating a women smoker 50 years or older – this should be a primary disease they test for.
2. Simple Testing - Health care professionals should perform palpitation of the arteries in the extremities (arms and legs) with particular attention to the femoral arteries in the legs. I personally cannot speak to what it is they should be listening for, but physicians know.
3. Feel The Feet – check for low pulses in the patient’s feet. Ask do you have cold feet, numb feet, aching in the hips or legs. Does hair grow on your legs anymore? Do their calves cramp when they walk and then stop when they stop.
4. Most importantly an ABI test. (Ankle Brachial Index). This is a cheap, easy, non-invasive test that measures the difference in the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm. The results can tell how well the blood is flowing through your limbs.
Help me to spread the word on this day about PAD. And….wear red shoes for me will ya?