There's a pain in the neck, pain in the butt and pain in the leg... and it's that last one you should worry about the most.

It could be a sign of peripheral artery disease, or blockages in the leg arteries that affect up to 9 million Americans, especially older diabetics.

And most of them don't even know they have it.

But what you don't know can ruin your life--PAD can lead to dramatic limitations on your mobility, amputations and even death.

And new research shows that while men and women get the condition at roughly the same rate, women fall apart faster than men once it sinks in.

Researchers in Chicago tracked 380 PAD patients aged 59 and up for four years, with annual tests to measure walking speed and ability as well as disability.

They found that women who could walk a quarter of a mile in six minutes in year one were 2.3 times more likely than men to lose that ability by year four. Women also had nearly double the risk of developing mobility problems such as being unable to walk a flight of stairs without assistance.

Of course, far too many reach that point and never know why--and all the while, a condition that could eventually kill them is slowly getting worse.

Here's what you need to watch for:

  • Pain while walking
  • Cramps in the legs and thighs while moving
  • Ulcers on the foot
  • Wounds that don't heal or heal slowly

Don't assume those are just the problems that come along with aging or even diabetes--because any one of them could be a sign of something badly wrong, and you need to let your doctor know ASAP.

There's a quick and painless test he can perform that will let him know right away if you're suffering from PAD--a simple comparison of blood pressure in the ankles to blood pressure in the arm.

If the ankles come out much lower... well, the good news is at least now you know you have it.

The bad news is that you're now facing all the risks I mentioned earlier and more.

Some studies have found that ginkgo biloba may help--but since it often interferes with meds commonly given to diabetics, speak to an experienced naturopathic physician first.

He can help you get off those meds and onto the safer alternatives that won't interfere with supplements such as ginkgo.