Recommended Lifestyle Changes for Patients With PAD
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common condition that occurs when fatty deposits or plaque build up inside the vessels that carry blood to the legs and feet. In severe cases, it can lead to disability or the loss of a foot or leg to amputation.
Fortunately, mild cases of PAD can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication. The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland recommend the following lifestyle changes for patients with PAD.
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1. Learn the symptoms and actively monitor them.
While more than half of people with PAD don’t exhibit any symptoms, it’s important to know what to watch for.
- Discomfort, fatigue, heaviness, and cramping in the leg muscles during activity
- Pain in the legs and/or feet that disturbs sleep
- Sores or wounds on toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly or not at all
- Color changes in the skin of the feet, including paleness and blueness
- Lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg
- Poor toenail growth and/or decreased hair growth on legs
If you begin to exhibit symptoms, it’s important to closely monitor them to provide your physician with as much information as possible. The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland recommend writing down symptom information in a notebook.
2. Have annual checkups with your primary care physician.
Annual checkups and screenings with your primary care physician are integral to your health. These visits can help to identify health issues before they progress into a bigger problem.
3. Treat high cholesterol as recommended.
High cholesterol is one of the risk factors for developing PAD because it contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Having your cholesterol checked regularly is recommended for everyone, but especially those with PAD. For those with high cholesterol and PAD, follow your doctor’s recommendations for managing your cholesterol.
4. Focus on healthy eating.
A healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats like poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and whole grains. The American Heart Association advises, “Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you choose to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available.”
Long-lasting lifestyle changes for patients with PAD like eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to limit the progression of the disease and promote overall health.
5. Quit smoking.
Smoking is a risk factor for developing PAD. In addition to being a risk factor, continuing to smoke with PAD may lead to a more severe case of the disease. It is recommended that those with PAD quit smoking as soon as possible and avoid secondhand smoke.
6. Treat diabetes as recommended.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “One in every three people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have P.A.D.” For those with diabetes and PAD, follow your doctor’s recommendations for managing your diabetes.
7. Maintain a healthy weight.
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help to reduce the severity of PAD and other risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland recommend working with your primary care physician to develop a safe and effective weight loss plan.
8. Limit alcohol consumption.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to worsening for several PAD risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.”
9. Treat high blood pressure as recommended.
High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for developing PAD because it increases your risk of developing plaque in the arteries. Having your blood pressure checked regularly is recommended for everyone, but especially those with PAD. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for managing your high blood pressure.
10. Engage in regular exercise.
Regular exercise can help improve your overall health, including your vascular health. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, “Adults gain most of these health benefits when they do the equivalent of 150 to 300 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.”
The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland recommend working with your primary care physician to develop a safe exercise plan.