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'Cosby' Star Tackles a Silent Heart Threat
Date:9/19/2007

Family deaths get Phylicia Rashad talking about peripheral artery disease

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Actress Phylicia Rashad has spent decades tickling America's funny bone and tugging at its heart.

But it's Americans' heart health she's working for now, crisscrossing the country to raise awareness of a common but underappreciated and underdiagnosed cardiovascular threat called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Rashad -- famous for her Emmy-nominated turn as Claire Huxtable during the 1980's TV hit The Cosby Show -- has lost too many family members to heart disease to ignore the problem, she said.

"PAD isn't new, but the diagnosis is recent," said Rashad. "People just used to refer to it as poor circulation, not understanding that PAD is a serious cardiovascular disease, and an indicator that a person is at two times the risk for a heart attack or stroke, and four times as likely to die of a heart attack or stroke."

PAD sets in when plaque formation -- or atherosclerosis -- clogs the arteries and impedes the flow of blood to the legs. Such plaque build-up raises the risk for clot formation and additional arterial blockage, potentially affecting blood flow to the heart or brain.

Part of a larger year-long public health effort entitled P.A.D.: Make the Connection, the campaign is being launched in conjunction with the first National PAD Awareness Month. It is co-sponsored by the nonprofit Peripheral Artery Disease Coalition (PAD Coalition).

A signal of more serious heart disease down the road, PAD often strikes without recognizable symptoms, and experts estimate that 8 million Americans who have the chronic condition remain undiagnosed and untreated.

"It's a condition that physicians don't test for regularly," noted Rashad. "Most people don't even really know about it."

To counter that lack of awareness, Rashad will address press and patients
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