Many people who have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) experience pain, particularly when walking. Finding ways to prevent PAD, including lifestyle factors and reducing the severity of the symptoms, is important and may be as simple as changing your diet or activity level. In this article, Dr. John Rundback explains prevention and treatment options for PAD.
What Can You Do to Prevent Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is caused by the hardening of the arteries, that affects the leg arteries. People are very familiar with this issue when it affects the heart arteries, called Coronary Artery Disease, and results in a heart attack. PAD can also affect the neck arteries, which can result in a stroke. The same hardening of the arteries causes blockages in the leg arteries and results in pain when walking or, in more severe cases, pain at rest that wakes you from sleep. It may even cause wounds that don’t heal, gangrene, and amputation.
The main thing you need to do to avoid Peripheral Arterial Disease is to have a healthy lifestyle. The risk factors for Peripheral Arterial Disease are smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, inactivity, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. In as much as you have a healthy lifestyle with a good diet, a Mediterranean diet, an active lifestyle, walk at least three times a day and take medications as appropriate to control those other risk factors, you can help to avoid Peripheral Arterial Disease. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to determine how healthy you will be.
Can Physical Exercise Help with Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Physical activity is a key component of the care for patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease. If you have pain when walking, and this is due to blocked arteries, one of the key things to do is to walk further through that pain. Over time, people can often increase their tolerance and walk further before the pain begins. This is effective, particularly when combined with medications as prescribed by doctors such as ourselves here at American Endovascular & Amputation Prevention.
At What Intensity Should Patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease Exercise?
When you have Peripheral Arterial Disease, you can get leg pain when walking as a result of decreased blood flow to your legs. Despite this discomfort, we encourage walking. Leg pain when you are walking is not dangerous in this state.
As a matter of fact, we want an intensity of pain where you walk not just until you get pain, but continue to walk past that point until you can no longer tolerate it. When the cramping or pain is so severe that you must stop, stop for the shortest period of time possible, then resume walking. Continue this cycle for 30 minutes of walking. If you walk 10 minutes and rest five, it only counts for 10. We want you to walk 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week, past the point of pain. You are not going to do any harm, but you can experience tremendous benefits, and it will overall increase the distance you can walk without feeling pain.
What Exercises Should Patients with PAD Avoid?
Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD, can result in considerable disability, particularly pain when walking, pain at night, or even non-healing wounds. We encourage patients to walk if they have Peripheral Arterial Disease with the understanding that leg pain when walking is not dangerous, and often with walking, you can improve how far you go before the pain continues.
There are very few exercises that need to be avoided with Peripheral Arterial Disease. Walking is among the best exercises and is better than bike riding or other things. In general, any exercise that puts stress on the legs and works those muscles of the legs is beneficial. The only reason you would need to avoid exercise is if there is a wound that would be exposed or injured in some way.
Is There a Special Diet for Peripheral Arterial Disease Patients?
A Mediterranean diet has been recommended by the American College of Cardiology as the best diet for people suffering from atherosclerosis, including Coronary Artery Disease and Peripheral Arterial Disease. When you visit the website of the American Heart Association, there are excellent guidelines about the Mediterranean diet, including cookbooks and recipes that you can try. There are also various other diet components that are necessary. Good hydration is important, and there are some over-the-counter supplements, such as L-arginine, which can sometimes help with these mild symptoms. In general, there is an expression,”What’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh,“. Meaning you need to take good care of yourself, eat well, and make sure you have a healthy diet, avoiding those things which we all know to be bad for us. That can really help with your Peripheral Arterial Disease.
What is the Best Treatment for Peripheral Arterial Disease?
The best treatment for Peripheral Arterial Disease, first of all, is controlling those risk factors which cause the problem in the first place: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and an inactive lifestyle. Once you have been diagnosed with Peripheral Arterial Disease, if you are getting pain when walking, which is called claudication, often the best thing to do is walk through it. Unlike chest pain, which would be a reason to stop walking, leg pain is not dangerous. We encourage people with Peripheral Arterial Disease to walk through the pain, and often you’ll be able to walk further over time.
This, combined with appropriate medications prescribed by your doctor, can help improve your quality of life and prevent procedures in the future for PAD. When the disease becomes more severe, and you can’t walk, you are waking at night, or you have wounds that aren’t healing, then there are minimally invasive procedures. We can perform these procedures, which can restore blood flow and allow you to regain full capacity and full function. Surgical bypass remains an option for those patients who can’t be treated with minimally invasive methods, which is what we do here at American Endovascular & Amputation Prevention.
Request a Consultation with Dr. Rundback
Request a consultation today with Dr. Rundback at NJ Endovascular & Amputation Prevention if you are at risk for PAD, or request a consultation at your nearest American Endovascular center today!