Recognizing a common cause of exercise-related leg pain

Peripheral artery disease is serious but preventable.

As people get older, they sometimes shrug off painful cramping in their calves when they walk as a sign of age or overexertion. But it can be a symptom of a more serious condition known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD.

PAD is a condition in which fatty deposits collect in arteries outside the heart — most commonly in the legs — and reduce blood flow in that part of the body. Doctors used to think PAD mostly affected men, but when researchers began to include more women in their studies, they learned that the condition is just as common in women, affecting one in every 10 women over age 50 and one in every five over age 60, says Dr. Aruna Pradhan, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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