9 Risk Factors for Developing PAD

More than 6 million Americans aged 40 and older have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a relatively common medical problem that can have serious complications. While PAD can affect anyone, certain factors increase your risk of developing the disease.

At Phoenix Heart, PLLC, our team helps patients at our practices in Glendale, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Anthem, Avondale, Laveen Village, and Black Canyon City, Arizona, learn about their risk factors so they can be evaluated and receive peripheral artery disease treatment when needed. Here are the risk factors our team wants you to know about.

Nonmodifiable risk factors

Nonmodifiable risk factors are risk factors that you can’t change. If you have nonmodifiable risk factors, it’s important to take extra steps to address the risk factors that you can change (also called modifiable risk factors).

Older age

Peripheral artery disease can happen at any age, but it’s definitely a lot more common after age 50. Data show, though, that younger patients diagnosed with PAD have a higher risk of cardiovascular events and limb amputations compared with people who develop PAD later in life.


This is a tricky one. For years, PAD was assumed to occur most often in men. But more recent data suggest PAD happens equally among both genders. It’s included in this list to dispel the notion that if you’re a woman, your symptoms probably aren’t due to PAD.

Family history

If you have a close family member with peripheral artery disease, you’re more likely to have it, too. In fact, a recent study of 31,000 veterans found 19 genetic markers for PAD, including 18 previously unidentified.

Modifiable risk factors

These are the risk factors for PAD that you can change. Best of all, addressing these risk factors helps your heart health and your overall health, too.


Obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease. In addition, a recent study found people who are obese are also at greater risk of severe complications of PAD, including critical limb ischemia that leads to amputation.

Smoking habit

Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, making it easier for plaques to build up. Plus, it impairs heart health and circulation overall, and it can also interfere with healing if you develop leg sores as a result of PAD.

High blood pressure

Like smoking, hypertension damages your blood vessel walls. This damage allows sticky plaque to “grab on” and build deposits that block the normal flow of blood.

High cholesterol

The sticky plaques that collect along artery walls are largely made up of cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, that means you have excessive amounts of cholesterol circulating in your blood. That extra cholesterol may form plaques that interfere with circulation.

Sedentary lifestyle

Americans love to sit, and while it may feel relaxing, it’s actually really bad for your health. In terms of PAD, research shows the risk of developing the disease is inversely related to how active you are, which means the less active you are, the higher your risk of developing PAD.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is usually acquired during the adult years as a result of obesity, poor diet, and other factors. Data show that people with type 2 diabetes also have a higher risk of PAD and painful PAD symptoms, possibly because diabetes is also associated with inflammation that can damage artery walls. Diabetes is also associated with worse outcomes, including a higher risk of limb amputation.

If you have PAD or if you’re at risk of developing it, management is the key to staying healthy. To learn how we can help, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.

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