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Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Peripheral Artery Disease Risk Hinges on Health Factors and Demographics, Including Race

The lifetime risk of lower-extremity peripheral artery disease (PAD), in which leg arteries narrow abnormally, is about 30 percent for black men and 28 percent for black women, with lower but still-substantial risks for Hispanics and whites, according to a study led by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to the analysis, being a smoker, having diabetes, and also having a history of coronary heart disease or stroke increases the lifetime risk for PAD by as much as five times that of someone of the same race, age, and sex who doesn’t have those risk factors. Importantly, race is another strong factor in PAD risk, contributing as much as some health-related factors.

The study, published online September 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is the first to have quantified the lifetime risk of PAD. The scientists analyzed existing large datasets that include records of PAD tests and determined that lifetime PAD risk varies considerably by race, sex, age, smoking status, and the presence of other diseases such as diabetes. From their analysis, the researchers developed a risk calculator for identifying high-risk patients who might benefit from PAD diagnostic screening.

PAD involves a chronic reduction of blood flow of leg arteries, typically from atherosclerosis, a buildup of fats along arterial walls. If untreated, PAD can lead to leg pain, poor wound healing, and other more serious outcomes including leg amputation.

Dr. Kunihiro Matsushita, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, is the lead author.

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