(Ed. note - As it is heart month, we asked Dr. Rocco Ciocca, Chief of Vascular Surgery, to explain a little more about heart attacks and peripheral artery disease.)
Most people are familiar with the phrase “heart attack” and know that it can be a life threatening condition.
The most common case of a “heart attack” or myocardial infarction is the sudden closure or clotting of a vessel or vessels that supply blood and thus oxygen and other nutrients to the heart. The heart is a muscle and without adequate blood flow the muscle dies. The most common case of a heart attack is “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerotic disease of the arteries. The disease, which is most commonly related to various risk factors such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high suger levels in the blood (diabetes), causes abnormal blockages to develop in critical blood vessels in the body limiting flow. The blood vessels of the heart are not the only vessels affected.
In fact, hardening of the arteries is a systemic (total body) process that involves many other blood vessels of the body. When it involves the other peripheral arteries of the body it is know as PAD, peripheral artery disease. The diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of PAD are managed by vascular specialists such as vascular surgeons.