• 1 February 2020
  • Dr. Obinna Nwobi

There’s no doubt that your risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD) is significantly higher if you’re obese. Additionally, obese patients are 3-5 times more likely to develop the most severe complication of PAD called critical limb ischemia.

We’re especially concerned about identifying and treating PAD because many obese patients who come to Vein Health Clinics ignored their leg pain thinking it was due to the stress of their weight. They didn’t know that leg pain and cramping are the key symptoms of PAD.

Here’s what you should know about PAD

PAD develops when cholesterol sticks to an artery wall. The cholesterol plaque slowly builds up by accumulating more fats and other substances, causing a condition called atherosclerosis. Over time, atherosclerotic plaque enlarges and hardens, which blocks blood flow.

You can develop PAD in any artery outside your heart, but the condition most commonly affects the legs. The first sign of PAD is typically pain and cramping that occurs when you walk, then goes away when you rest.

Without treatment, PAD progresses to cause a severe condition called critical limb ischemia. At that stage, you have pain even when resting. As tissues don’t get enough blood, you develop nonhealing ulcers and infections in your foot and around your ankle.

Obesity increases your risk of PAD

Obesity alone increases your risk of PAD. In medical terms, that means obesity is an independent risk factor for PAD. If you primarily carry your weight around your waist, your risk is even higher.

The impact of obesity on your body is complex and involves an increase in many different hormones and biochemicals. One of the biggest factors linking obesity and PAD, however, is inflammation.

Fat stores in your body, also called adipose tissue, release substances called proinflammatory cytokines. As blood levels of cytokines increase, you develop body-wide inflammation. Your arteries are especially susceptible to inflammation. Inflammation in turn contributes to atherosclerosis.

It’s also important to know that obesity is associated with PAD which progresses to cause critical limb ischemia. Obese patients are much more likely to develop critical limb ischemia compared to those with a healthy weight.

Losing weight can lower your risk for PAD, improve arterial function in your legs, and prevent critical limb ischemia.

Obesity, metabolic disorders, and their impact on PAD

While some obese patients are otherwise healthy, it’s more common for obesity to occur together with other chronic health conditions. Obesity increases your risk of developing metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease.

On their own, each of these metabolic disorders raises your risk for PAD. Here are two examples:


Excess body weight is one of the driving forces of insulin resistance, a condition in which your body can’t use insulin properly. When insulin resistance goes untreated, it becomes full-blown diabetes. Diabetes causes inflammation and slows blood flow, dramatically accelerating atherosclerosis and subsequently, PAD.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure damages arterial walls, creating the perfect spot for cholesterol to build up, restrict blood flow, and lead to PAD.

When you have multiple metabolic disorders, they produce a cumulative effect. The more conditions you have, the more your overall chance of PAD increases.

Screening for PAD

Anyone who’s at risk — whether you’re obese and metabolically healthy, or you’ve been diagnosed with several conditions that boost the risk of PAD — should consider PAD screening.

We screen for PAD using a quick, noninvasive procedure that uses blood pressure cuffs and a small ultrasound device to compare the blood pressure in your arm with the blood pressure in your ankle.

To learn more about PAD or to schedule an appointment, call one of our offices in Oviedo and Winter Haven, Florida, or book an appointment online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can PAD Be Reversed?

PAD cannot be reversed, but lifestyle changes and medical treatments can help slow its progression and improve symptoms. This includes quitting smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy diet, as well as medication, minimally invasive procedures, or surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing complications.

How Long Can You Live With PAD?

The lifespan of someone with PAD depends on several factors, including the severity of the disease, the effectiveness of treatment, and the presence of other medical conditions. With proper care and management, many people with PAD are able to live long and healthy lives.

How To Reverse Peripheral Artery Disease?

Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy diet can help slow the progression of PAD. In some cases, medical treatments such as medication, angioplasty, or bypass surgery may be necessary.

What Happens If PAD Goes Untreated?

Untreated PAD can lead to serious complications such as heart attack, stroke, or limb amputation. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of PAD such as leg pain or numbness.

What Is PAD In Medical Terms?

PAD, or Peripheral Artery Disease, is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the legs become narrowed or blocked, leading to decreased blood flow and oxygen to the affected area.

Does Losing Weight Help Peripheral Artery Disease?

Losing weight can help improve the symptoms of PAD by reducing the strain on the circulatory system and improving blood flow. Additionally, weight loss can help reduce other risk factors for PAD such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Can PAD Be Reversed With Diet?

A healthy diet can help slow the progression of PAD and reduce symptoms. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation and improve circulation.

Can You Have PAD Without High Cholesterol?

While high cholesterol is a common risk factor for PAD, it is possible to develop the disease without high cholesterol. Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of heart disease.

How Can Atherosclerosis Be Linked To PAD?

Atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries, is a common cause of PAD. As plaque accumulates in the arteries of the legs, it can narrow or block blood flow to the affected area, leading to PAD.

How Does Obesity Cause Atherosclerosis?

Obesity can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis by increasing inflammation in the body and promoting the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Additionally, obesity is often linked to other risk factors for atherosclerosis such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

How Often Should You Change A Pad?

The frequency with which you should change a pad depends on your individual flow and preferences. As a general guideline, it is recommended to change a pad every 4-6 hours or as needed to maintain comfort and hygiene.

About The Author

Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Dr. Obinna Nwobi is a board certified vascular surgeon, who chose to practice in an underserved area in Florida. In a field that graduates only 100 new vascular surgeons a year, Dr. Nwobi is an exemplary vascular surgeon who worked for the Indian Health Services, Veterans Affairs Hospital, and large private and public hospitals.


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