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BATON ROUGE, LA (WGMB) – Millions of Americans have it. It can be painful, and even fatal.

“If you look at the statistics, there’s about a 40% cardiac mortality rate related just to the occurrence of blockages in the legs,” said Dr. Glen Schwartzberg, a Vascular Surgeon at the Baton Rouge Clinic.

In this week’s Women’s Wellness, I’m catching up with Dr. Schwartzberg, and we’re talking about Peripheral Vascular Disease, or PVD for short.

“So PVD or hardening of the arteries, there are many different names for it, is basically a process where the arteries become blocked off because of certain risk factors that have a detrimental effect on the arterial system. Those risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and heredity,” said Dr. Schwartzberg.

Dr. Schwartzberg tells me this disease is more common in men, but those statistics are starting to change.

“The recent demographics show that women are catching up,” explained Dr. Schwartzberg.

Dr. Schwartzberg says having a hard time exercising or doing day to day activities can be one of the symptoms.

“Calf cramping or thigh cramping or their leg feels heavy, it burns. They can’t pick it up. They can’t move. They get fatigued very easily because they’re trying to work in very unfriendly circumstances. Their feet will turn beet red, and they have to keep them in a dependent position because that’s a way you can augment blood flow to a certain extent,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “So, if those symptoms occur, again, I would reiterate to patients, don’t just think ‘Oh, I’m old. Oh, I have arthritis. There’s nothing that can be done.’ There are plenty of things that can be done.”

Now my question is, how is it treated?

“So the goal of therapy, number one, is lifestyle modification. That if you smoke, stop smoking. If you’re overweight, exercise. After that, the goals of treatment are to improve the circulation to your legs. The analogy I tell patients is the muscles in your legs are like your car engine, if you have a dirty fuel filter, the engine is not going to accelerate too well to get on the interstate,” said Dr. Schwartzberg. “Ninety-percent of what I do is not bypass surgery. It’s just done through a needle stick. It’s done as an outpatient, and because technology is so good nowadays, it allows the clinician to intervene and help patients in a minimally invasive way.”

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