One of America's best-loved TV moms, The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad is taking on a new leading role in raising awareness of Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.), a condition that affects about 8 million Americans, and puts them at more than double the risk of heart attack or stroke and more than four times the risk of dying from heart disease including heart attack and stroke. However, according to the P.A.D. Coalition, most people are unaware of P.A.D. and the risks associated with it.

In recognition of the first National P.A.D. Awareness Month, Rashad is sharing her family history, and together with the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi Pharmaceuticals Partnership and in collaboration with the P.A.D. Coalition, is helping to launch the P.A.D: Make the Connection: Know Your Risks from Legs to Heart to Brain public action campaign in the hope that other families will avoid the losses her family has endured. The campaign will educate people about the risk factors for P.A.D., help them identify if they or a loved one are at risk for P.A.D. and motivate those at risk to speak with their doctors about getting tested. People can find more information about P.A.D., including risk factors and symptoms, at

Rashad's New Role Close to Her Heart
Eight of Rashad's family members, including her father and grandparents, died of a heart attack or stroke. Each of those family members had lived with some of the common risk factors for P.A.D., which include: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and a family history of heart attack or stroke.

"When P.A.D. was brought to my attention, I reflected on my family members who had risk factors for P.A.D. and were never tested. I realized that like my own family, millions of people are not aware of P.A.D. and the risks associated with it," said Rashad. "However, we are fortunate that great strides in medical research have revealed the correlation between different diseases and how one can put you at risk for another. I want people to benefit from these findings by learning what P.A.D. is and how it can impact their health."

P.A.D. is a chronic condition in which a person has poor circulation in the legs that can lead to serious cardiovascular events. In fact, P.A.D. can be a warning sign that arteries, including those carrying blood to the heart and brain, may be blocked, increasing a person's risk of heart attack and stroke.

"The lack of P.A.D. awareness is profound and has had a detrimental effect on the health of Americans," said Alan T. Hirsch, M.D., Chair of the P.A.D. Coalition, Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Director of the Vascular Medicine Program at the Minneapolis Heart Institute. "P.A.D. affects not only the people with the disease but their family members as well. By raising awareness of P.A.D., we empower each individual and their loved ones to talk to their doctor before the disease becomes an emergency."

P.A.D. is a silent disease. Some patients experience pain or discomfort in the buttocks, thighs or calves, symptoms typically seen when the disease has progressed. However, patients often don't know they have P.A.D. because they don't experience symptoms. About one in three patients with P.A.D. actually feels pain or heaviness in the feet or legs that goes away with rest. By that time, their arteries may be so clogged or hardened that they are not getting enough oxygen to supply their leg muscles. Others ignore their symptoms because they believe them to be a natural part of aging. v "Testing for P.A.D. is simple and painless and is performed right in the doctor's office. Once a patient is diagnosed with P.A.D., their risk of heart attack and stroke can be reduced through lifestyle changes and treatments," said Emile R. Mohler, M.D., director of vascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "Increased diagnosis and treatment could significantly reduce the number of these risks." Alarmingly, despite these risks, P.A.D. is often under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Connecting P.A.D. from Legs to Heart to Brain
The P.A.D: Make the Connection public action campaign will bring Rashad's message to people from coast to coast through a year-long series of events. The first will target policy makers as she joins the P.A.D. Coalition at a Congressional Briefing on Tuesday, September 18, 2007. With the P.A.D. Coalition, Rashad will speak to Congressional leaders about the need for increased screening so patients who are diagnosed can discuss treatment options and lifestyle changes to reduce the risks associated with the disease with their doctors.

"It's not okay to take a wait-and-see approach to your health," said Rashad, who recently had her first test for P.A.D. "If you or a loved one is at risk for P.A.D., I urge you to take action and talk to your doctor."

For nearly a decade, Rashad has been a dedicated educational health advocate working to increase awareness of cardiovascular diseases to improve patients' quality of life. Rashad is urging people to visit for more information on P.A.D. diagnosis, disease management and treatments.

About sanofi-aventis
Sanofi-aventis is the world's third largest pharmaceutical company, ranking number one in Europe. Backed by a world-class R&D organization, sanofi-aventis is developing leading positions in seven major therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, thrombosis, oncology, metabolic diseases, central nervous system, internal medicine, and vaccines. Sanofi-aventis U.S. is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and New York (NYSE: SNY).

About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related health care company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life. Visit Bristol-Myers Squibb at

About the P.A.D. Coalition
The Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) Coalition is an alliance of leading health organizations, vascular health professional societies, and government agencies united to raise public and health professional awareness about lower extremity P.A.D. Established in 2004, the P.A.D. Coalition is coordinated by the Vascular Disease Foundation (, a national, not-for-profit section 501(c)(3) organization. The P.A.D. Coalition seeks to improve the prevention, early detection, treatment, and rehabilitation of people with, or at risk for, P.A.D. For more information, visit