Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Peripheral artery disease and stroke

The heart isn't the only part of the body prone to developing clogged arteries. They appear almost everywhere, including the legs. Plaque-clogged leg arteries often go unnoticed, and doctors tend to overlook them. But this condition, called peripheral artery disease (PAD), is a heart attack waiting to happen.

PAD may be particularly problematic in stroke survivors or people who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA, or ministroke). In a study of 102 such individuals, one-quarter had undiscovered PAD. Among those with the condition, 52% had a heart attack or repeat stroke over a two-year period, compared with just 16% of those without the condition (Stroke, published online Aug. 29, 2009).

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