Opening up treatment for peripheral artery disease

Lessons from the heart may translate to better treatment for blocked arteries in the legs and elsewhere.

The heart isn't the only place in the body where the onslaught of high blood pressure, inflammation, and an overload of circulating fat stiffen and narrow arteries. It happens in the brain and the kidneys as well. Compromised arteries can even run through the legs and arms.

The condition of stiff, clogged arteries beyond the heart is called peripheral artery disease. The name makes it sound trivial. It's anything but. More than 10 million Americans have this disease. Some have no symptoms. But many have leg pain when they walk that makes it difficult, or even impossible, to cross a street or climb stairs. Each year, thousands lose a foot or leg because of poor circulation. And everyone with it faces substantially higher than average chances of having a heart attack or stroke, or dying early.

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