Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects almost 9 million Americans, including up to 20% of those over 60. Many of them are unaware of their condition because they have no symptoms.
Both men and women are affected by PAD; however, African Americans have an increased risk of PAD. Hispanics may have similar to slightly higher rates of PAD compared with non-Hispanic white people.
That’s troubling because early intervention can help you deal with the increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. PAD usually responds to lifestyle changes and medical care but needs to be monitored closely. If left untreated, PAD can result in the need for a major amputation of the foot or leg. This is most concerning because the life expectancy for 60% of PAD amputee patients is only 2 to 5 years.
Remember that PAD may also be called peripheral vascular disease or hardening of the arteries. It’s a condition where plaque gradually builds up in your blood vessels. As your arteries narrow and stiffen, your circulation slows down.
As a result, your body may not get enough oxygen, especially in your arms and legs. The first signs you may notice are muscle aches or cramps in your calves that show up when you walk or climb stairs and go away when you rest.
Keeping your arteries healthy can help you lead a long and active life. Learn more about how to fight PAD.
Medical Care for Peripheral Artery Disease:
- Know your risks. In addition to age, several factors can make you more vulnerable to PAD. That includes having diabetes, smoking, and being sedentary.
- Get diagnosed. If your doctor suspects PAD, they will physically examine your legs and probably perform an ankle-brachial index test that compares the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm. Additional tests may include angiography and ultrasound scans.
- Take medication. Cilostazol and Pentoxifylline are two drugs commonly prescribed for PAD. Your doctor may also recommend statins to lower your cholesterol and medicines used to manage blood pressure, blood sugar, and muscle pain.
- Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol. PAD is often associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition to taking your medication as prescribed, your doctor may recommend you monitor your blood pressure at home because it can change quickly. On the other hand, your doctor can provide more accurate cholesterol readings than any current home tests.
- Consider surgery. In more advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. Angioplasties use a small balloon to hold your arteries open. They’re usually done as an outpatient procedure so that you can go home the same day.
Lifestyle Changes for Peripheral Artery Disease:
- Stay active. Moving around more is one of the most effective ways to fight PAD. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, gradually ease into a regular workout routine. Aim to exercise at least three days a week.
- Do leg exercises. While PAD can affect any part of your body, your limbs are usually the main targets. Spot exercises that target your legs and walking outdoors and on a treadmill can be beneficial. It’s natural if you need to take breaks and rest to minimize discomfort and fatigue.
- Quit smoking. Adults who smoke are four times more likely to develop PAD. If you’ve tried to quit in the past, try again. You might use a nicotine replacement device and go to support meetings. Talk with your doctor about combining methods.
- Limit salt. Using too much sodium can raise your blood pressure. Flavor your dishes with other ingredients, like lemon and garlic. Eat more whole foods instead of processed items and read the labels when buying packaged items.
- Lose weight. Being overweight or obese is another risk factor. Shed excess pounds with a nutritious diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and a limited amount of healthy fats.
One in three patients with heart disease has PAD, so it can significantly affect your cardiovascular health. Make wise lifestyle choices and talk with your doctor about your concerns.