7 | Special Topic Supplement: Vascular Diseases
arry Sadwin’s legs hurt whenever he exercises, a
symptom of restricted blood vessels. But he’s finding
a way to manage his condition.
When Sadwin’s legs began aching while golfing
or walking on the treadmill more than four years ago,
he figured it was due to aging or being out of shape.
His calf and thigh muscles ached like he’d overexerted
himself. Yet, unlike overtaxed muscles that ache for a day or
so, Sadwin’s stopped hurting whenever he stopped walking
or rested, a classic symptom of PAD.
The symptoms were intermittent at first, but worsened
over the course of a year.
He complained about it to his primary care physician and
cardiologist, and was referred to a vascular surgeon. In 2013,
he was diagnosed with PAD.
Sadwin, a retired businessman and philanthropist from
Warren, Rhode Island, had already spent more than 30 years
managing coronary heart disease, so it was a relief to finally
have a diagnosis and a plan for how to treat it. While the last
few years have had their share of ups and downs in terms
of managing his condition, Sadwin is staying optimistic and
encourages others to learn more about PAD.
“It isn’t life-threatening, but it definitely affects quality of
life,” he said of his experience with PAD.
Heart disease has been part of Sadwin’s life since
childhood. He remembers seeing his father survive his first
heart attack when he was only 8 and his dad was 30. His
father would have two more heart attacks, including a fatal
one at age 42. His grandfather also died from heart disease.
Sadwin was diagnosed with coronary artery disease
and ischemia at age 38. His doctor ordered a stress test
after complaints about indigestion, combined with his family
history of heart disease. He also learned he had experienced
a silent heart attack.
The news was an emotional blow to Sadwin, whose son
was 8, the same age he was when his father had his first
“I was 38 and master of my universe,” he said. “It wasn’t
going to happen to me.”
Back then, Sadwin stayed active and maintained a healthy
weight, although his diet was dominated by fried, fatty foods
and red meat. He smoked three packs of cigarettes a day.
After receiving his diagnosis, he immediately quit smoking
and overhauled his diet. He struggled with angina for two
years, then underwent a triple bypass in 1984.
He spent the next three decades managing his heart disease
with medication and regular exercise. He volunteered with the
American Heart Association, grateful for the advancements in
medical treatment not available when his father was alive.
“My dad never got to meet his grandchildren. I do,” he said.
His PAD diagnosis adds another layer to his motivation, as
he navigates how to manage his condition and heart health.
He underwent surgery in 2013 to improve circulation in
his legs. He experienced a month pain-free before a stent
collapsed and the pain returned. He will undergo testing again
to evaluate whether he needs a second surgery.
For Sadwin, now 73, quality of life issues are the most
difficult part of PAD.
“I feel great, I just can’t walk without my legs aching,” he
said. “I want to get the most out of life, but when you realize
the trip you want to go on or hike you want to take isn’t
possible, it’s hard.”
Sadwin encourages others to advocate for themselves
and talk to their doctors about their symptoms and to find
support from others who share the condition.
Sadwin, who served as AHA’s chairman of the board in
2001, now chairs AHA’s Research Network Expert Panel and
the subcommittee for Emotional Support for Patients and
“Doctors are focused on the mechanical part, but realize
that you aren’t alone and others may have experiences to
share about quality of life and the emotional side,” he said.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke
Association Support Network is here for patients and their
families to come together and share their experiences,
insights and tips and support for one another. Join the
Support Network for free today.
Excerpted and adapted from American Heart Association News.
GETTING A PAD DIAGNOSIS
PAD survivor Larry Sadwin with wife Joan