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BHM Winter 2024 Summit Rewind: Facing The Challenge: Recognizing the Threat and Reducing the Risk of Peripheral Artery Disease

Presented by:

JaBaris D. Swain, MD, MPH

Sponsored by J&J Innovative Medicine

Dr. JaBaris D. Swain shared information on identifying and minimizing the risk of peripheral artery disease at the Black Health Matters Winter 2024 Summit.

Dr. Swain began his presentation by warning that “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to have peripheral artery disease than White Americans.” He continued by explaining to the audience the arteries and their function within the body. “Arteries carry blood through your body,” he told them.

What is peripheral artery disease?

“Plaque is made of a fat and cholesterol that can build up in your arteries and can cause a blockage peripheral artery disease that occurs when plaque build-up forms in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs.” He explained that the impact of the disease was generally located in the lower portion of the body and “usually occurs in your legs.”

The doctor pointed out the associated illnesses that could potentially accompany the disease. “If you have peripheral artery disease, you may also have blockages in other parts of your body,” he said. “Two organs that commonly have blockages include the heart and the brain. Blocked arteries can mean greater risk for heart attack stroke or amputation.”

Heart attacks, often depicted in the media, are major cardiac events. Dr. Swain described what is happening inside the body when they take place. “A heart attack occurs when a blockage occurs in the arteries of the heart, and a blockage can cause a stroke,” he explained.

What are the risks of peripheral artery disease for the Black community?

Several illnesses that disproportionately impact the Black community are associated with an elevated risk of developing peripheral artery disease. Dr. Swain shared a list of “diseases and conditions that could put you at greater risk of developing peripheral artery disease,” including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and chronic kidney disease.

“Patients with diabetes, particularly those who are over the age of fifty, have a one in three chance of developing peripheral artery disease; also, if you have heart disease, you have a one and three chance also,” he continued.

He noted that smoking and certain genetic factors affect one’s chances of developing the disease as well. According to Dr. Swain, quitting smoking and increasing exercise efforts can reduce the risks of peripheral artery disease. Allowing the disease to progress without treatment can lead to horrible outcomes like amputation, a major heart attack, a stroke, or even death.

What are the signs of peripheral artery disease?

Many patients dealing with peripheral artery disease will feel significant pain, but Dr. Swain warned that some will not. Being informed about other, less obvious symptoms will help others be diagnosed. “About 40% of patients will not have pain associated with their peripheral artery disease, so it’s really important to understand how to recognize the different signs and symptoms,” he said.

He revealed indicators that someone might be suffering peripheral artery disease, including “painful leg cramping can occur, you can also have numbness, weakness or heaviness in your legs or feet, breast pain, cold feet, discolored skin, [and] hair loss.”

Here’s How You Can Take Action!

  • Pay attention to the signs, familiarize yourself with the symptoms, and ask your doctor if this could be an issue.
  • Put a treatment plan in place and stick to it. “Treating peripheral artery disease in time may protect you from serious medical consequences,” said Dr. Swain.
  • Take care of your feet proactively so that they can remain healthy and less susceptible to peripheral artery disease.



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