Background: The early diagnosis of atherosclerotic disease is essential for developing preventive strategies in populations at high risk and acting when the disease is still asymptomatic. A low ankle-arm index is a good marker of vascular events and may be diminished without presenting symptomatology (silent peripheral arterial disease). The aim of the study is to know the prevalence and associated risk factors of peripheral arterial disease in the general population.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional, multicentre, population-based study in 3786 individuals >49 years, randomly selected in 28 primary care centres in Barcelona (Spain). Peripheral arterial disease was evaluated using the ankle-arm index. Values < 0.9 were considered as peripheral arterial disease.
Results: The prevalence (95% confidence interval) of peripheral arterial disease was 7.6% (6.7-8.4), (males 10.2% (9.2-11.2), females 5.3% (4.6-6.0); p < 0.001).Multivariate analysis showed the following risk factors: male sex [odds ratio (OR) 1.62; 95% confidence interval 1.01-2.59]; age OR 2.00 per 10 years (1.64-2.44); inability to perform physical activity [OR 1.77 (1.17-2.68) for mild limitation to OR 7.08 (2.61-19.16) for breathless performing any activity]; smoking [OR 2.19 (1.34-3.58) for former smokers and OR 3.83 (2.23-6.58) for current smokers]; hypertension OR 1.85 (1.29-2.65); diabetes OR 2.01 (1.42-2.83); previous cardiovascular disease OR 2.19 (1.52-3.15); hypercholesterolemia OR 1.55 (1.11-2.18); hypertriglyceridemia OR 1.55 (1.10-2.19). Body mass index > or =25 Kg/m2 OR 0.57 (0.38-0.87) and walking >7 hours/week OR 0.67 (0.49-0.94) were found as protector factors.
Conclusions: The prevalence of peripheral arterial disease is low, higher in males and increases with age in both sexes. In addition to previously described risk factors we found a protector effect in physical exercise and overweight.