When we think of cardiovascular system disorders, we often think of stroke, heart attack, or general heart disease. But the spectrum of heart problems is far broader than this. Whether you've heard of it or not, peripheral artery disease is one of the most debilitating and dangerous cardiovascular conditions one can have. What's more, according to U.S. News & World Report, it's on the rise as of late, having increased dramatically over the last 10 years.

So what is peripheral artery disease?

To understand the threat that PAD poses to our health, it's essential to have a firm grasp of what the disease is. According to the American Heart Association, PAD is a narrowing of the main arteries that carry blood to and from different parts of the body. In particular, this narrowing tends to occur in the arteries that deliver blood to the arms, legs, head and stomach. Similar to coronary artery disease, the condition is often brought on by atherosclerosis, which involves plaque build up in the walls of various arteries due to harmful lifestyle factors such as diet.

A drastic rise in diagnoses

While the rates of many diseases worldwide are going down with recent advances in modern healthcare, PAD is actually on the rise, and in no small way, either. The rate of the disease went up by nearly 25 percent, over the last decade, according to U.S. News & World Report. Specifically, between 2000 and 2010, the number of documented cases of PAD rose from 164 million to a staggering 202 million. What may be more alarming is the fact that the primary risk factors for the disease are preventable or treatable. Smoking tobacco, maintaining a poor diet, having diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure all contribute to your risk of developing PAD, which could lead to stroke or heart attack.

Other notes

Research suggests that the risk of PAD seems to rise with age. The condition is found in nearly one out of every 10 individuals age 70 and above, and in almost one in six individuals over the age of 80. Unsurprisingly, the condition is considerably more common in countries with lower average incomes and less well-developed medical infrastructure.

For more on peripheral artery disease:

Peripheral Artery Disease: Causes
Peripheral Artery Disease: Definition
Peripheral Artery Disease: Symptoms