Women coping with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in the legs appear to lose mobility faster than men, new research reveals. PAD is marked by narrowing and blockages of the peripheral arteries, usually those in the legs and pelvis. The most common symptoms are pain, cramping and tiredness in the leg or hip muscles when walking or climbing stairs symptoms that go away during rest. "The bottom line is that among those with lower extremity PAD, women have faster declines in mobility and functional performance compared to men," said study author Mary M. McDermott, a professor of medicine.
"This may be related to gender differences in calf muscle, as women tend to have less calf muscle compared to men," McDermott added. She and her colleagues report their findinsg in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Both the researchers and the American Heart Association note that an estimated 8 million American men and women are affected by lower extremity PAD, with disease prevalence being split about equally across genders. To examine whether disease progression differs among men and women, between 2002 and 2009 McDermott and her team tracked the progress of 380 male and female patients with PAD of the legs in the Chicago area.
All the participants were 59 and older. Over a four-year period, annual mobility assessments were conducted during which each patient was asked to complete a quarter mile, six-minute walk, as well as a four-minute speed test, to observe the development of disability. Changes in calf muscle measurements and characteristics were also noted, alongside knee extension strength. Overall, the research team determined that after adjusting for age, women fared more poorly than men over the course of the study. As the study period unfolded, they noted that women ended up walking less per week and had more difficulty walking the quarter-mile.