Harvard Heart Letter

Peripheral artery disease often goes untreated

Problems in arteries supplying the legs, kidneys, and elsewhere pose problems for the heart, too.

The arteries that supply the heart (coronary arteries) and the brain (carotid arteries) get far more attention than the vast network of arteries below the heart. These so-called peripheral arteries are often overlooked — and a study suggests that problems in these blood vessels are often undertreated — even though they cause as much mayhem as problems in the coronaries and carotids.

"Peripheral arteries" is an unfortunate catchall term that undervalues these vital sections of the circulatory system. They include the lower part of the aorta (the main pipeline for oxygenated blood out of the heart), as well as blood vessels that supply the stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, arms, and legs.

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