You hear a lot about heart attacks caused by high cholesterol and high blood pressure. But there may be another condition that is sneaking up on you. critical limb ischemia(CLI).

CLI is the most serious stage of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) worldwide. In the United States, PAD is responsible for at least 160,000 amputations annually. It occurs when blood vessels block blood flow to the limbs, primarily the legs.

CLI is a condition that occurs when PAD isn’t treated. This causes leg tissue to literally gasp for air and can lead to the death of your legs. Poor circulation can lead to the death of leg and foot tissue, which causes gangrene and persistently achy feet. This is a serious condition that could eventually result in loss of limb.

“If you have PAD and develop significant discomfort in the leg muscles while at rest, you are at increased risk and should get checked by a physician,”Dr. Emile MOHLER, director of vascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and spokesperson for Vascular Disease Foundation, said:

Here are some things you should know about CLI. Who is at-risk and how to protect yourself.

* Just stop smoking. This may seem old-fashioned, but it will be repeated as long as people continue to do it. Smoking can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as PAD and CLI.

* Pay attention to the condition of your legs and feet. Are your feet frequently in pain, numb or sensitive when you elevate them? Are your toes slightly bluish? Other signs of CLI include dry, shiny skin and thickening nails.

* CLI is closely associated with advanced age (55 and up), diabetes and, yes, cigarettes. These groups are at greatest risk. Women who smoke pose a greater risk. Doctors believe that women who smoke cigarettes while taking birth control pills are more likely to be harmed than men because they have smaller blood vessels.

* Ischemic rest pain is a common symptom where legs ache and cramp during exercise or movement. Skin lesions, skin ulcers, and slow pulses in the legs and feet are other symptoms.

Many CLI patients are not diagnosed. Find out more at

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