A heart attack is an acute event that is rarely preceded by clear warning signs, but symptoms can sometimes strike hours or weeks before a heart attack. Most health bodies recommend looking for signs of shortness of breath, shoulder pain, or chest discomfort. According to one study, leg pain can also be an important signal of an impending heart attack.
Body pain can represent different types of vascular disease depending on where it occurs in the body.
If it specifically affects the lower limbs, for example, it can cause blood flow problems due to peripheral artery disease.
However, it is important to note that leg pain is not a symptom of a heart attack, but can be a sign of heart disease.
In a 2019 study published in JAMA Cardiology, about five percent of people with PAD had a heart attack within 30 months.
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The study identified two types of heart attack, with type 1 myocardial infarction caused by an acute thrombotic coronary event.
Type 2 myocardial infarction, on the other hand, tends to follow an acute imbalance between oxygen supply and demand.
The report states: “Advanced limb symptoms appear to be a stronger predictor of type 2 myocardial infarction than type 1 myocardial infarction.
“Myocardial infarction in patients with PAD is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular death and […] events requiring hospitalization.”
In the early stages of PAD, symptoms can be rare, with most complications occurring during exercise and stopping at rest.
The Cleveland Clinic explains: “The first symptom of PAD is usually pain, cramping or discomfort in the legs or buttocks (intermittent claudication.
“It happens when you’re active and disappears when you rest.”
However, when the condition progresses, claudication can appear at night, when the body is relaxed.
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This is a sign that an arterial blockage is blocking blood flow to the extremities and depriving the limbs of oxygen.
It should be noted that PAD tends to develop over decades, sometimes taking 50 or more years to manifest with symptoms.
Signs of PAD also reflect a spectrum of disease severity, with some cases being asymptotic.
In fact, about 20 to 50 percent of patients diagnosed with the disease are asymptomatic, despite showing signs of the disease when tested.
“As the disease progresses and blood vessels narrow, arterial flow to the lower extremities worsens, and symptoms may appear as classic intermittent claudication or as atypical claudication or leg discomfort,” explains the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). .
It added: “Intermittent claudication is defined as discomfort in the lower extremities that persists but does not persist with rest.”
The more advanced the disease, the more likely a person will develop severe claudication, which can reduce walking distance and cause pain at rest.
The final stage of PAD – clinically called critical limb ischemia – is defined as rest pain lasting more than 14 days, ulceration or gangrenous tissue.