Pain in both of your legs that won’t respond to typical treatments or exercise may be a sign of a pending heart attack or one a few years later.

It’s quite simple to understand: The process that causes arteries to clog up in the heart can also cause arteries in the legs to clog up.

This is called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

James Stanley, MD, says in a report that the leg pain of PAD can be an early warning of a high risk of heart attack.

Dr. Stanley is with the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center. He states in his report, which is on the UMCC site, “This is the hallmark of a disease that’s all over.”

He compares the clogged arteries in the heart to that of grey hairs: You don’t get grey hairs in just one section of one side of your head; you get them evenly throughout. Same with clogged arteries.

If your heart’s arteries are blocked, why wouldn’t the arteries in both your legs have some blockages?

Let’s run that in reverse: If your legs’ arteries are blocked, why wouldn’t your heart’s arteries be too?

So if PAD causes pain in both your legs, this surely means that the arteries in your heart are clogged. Coronary blockages can lead to a heart attack.

The report points out that one-fourth of people who have PAD leg pain will be dead within five years, mostly from a heart attack or other cardiac issue.

The surgical treatment for PAD is akin to a coronary bypass. PAD is very common in the U.S., but many people do not have its leg pain.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease and just happen to have unexplained leg pain, ask your cardiologist about PAD. An ultrasound can detect it.

Risk Factors for PAD = Those for Heart Disease

• Age 50+
• Smoking
• Diabetes
• High blood pressure and cholesterol
• Overweight
• Lack of exercise

Dr. Stanley says that the leg pain should not keep a PAD patient from walking whenever they can.

Walking, though painful, can spur the production of “detour blood vessels around the obstruction.”

These collateral vessels will subdue some pain.

Dr. Stanley warns, however, that if not treated sooner (e.g., via walking, quitting smoking, stent placement, bypass), PAD’s leg pain could become disruptive, awakening people at night and even leading to sore on the feet.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Robert Kneschke