Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is caused by narrowed or blocked arteries that lead to reduced blood flow to the peripheral limbs. Because it’s a condition that usually develops over time, often making lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms associated with PAD and reduce the risk for health complications.
PAD Signs and Symptoms
As with many health conditions, catching PAD at its earlier stages gives you the best chance of using lifestyle changes and low intervention methods to effectively manage it. However, some people experience no symptoms of PAD at all, and the condition may only be diagnosed in the course of a separate health screening.
Other people may experience symptoms such as:
- Leg pain or achiness
- Leg numbness or heaviness
- Discomfort or pain in the legs while climbing stairs
- Weak pulse in the legs/feet
- Skin discoloration or texture changes
- Slow-healing or non-healing wounds in the legs, feet, or toes
- Decreased growth of toenails or leg hair
- Erectile dysfunction, in men
It’s important to talk to a doctor if you experience these symptoms. When diagnosed in the early stages, lifestyle changes and other treatments can be very effective at managing PAD. Without any kind of treatment, PAD can progress and lead to very serious health risks, including heart attack, stroke, or limb amputation.
Lifestyle Changes for PAD
The reason lifestyle changes can be so effective for managing symptoms and the severity of PAD is because many of the main risk factors for it are what doctors call “controllable”, meaning you can control the risk and symptoms by engaging in healthier behaviors and making healthier choices.
If you are a smoker, the number one thing you can do to help PAD is to quit smoking. Smoking may be a more influential risk factor for PAD than for coronary artery disease The benefits of quitting smoking go well beyond managing PAD—but it’s not easy. You can talk to your doctor, explore medically-qualified advice online, or find support groups to help you on your smoking cessation journey.
Eating a Healthy, Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is a cornerstone of your overall health, and changing your diet can help PAD for many reasons. Several of the top controllable risk factors for PAD—including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity—all depend on you adopting a healthy, well-balanced diet in order to be effectively managed or improved.
The risk between diabetes and PAD is so closely linked. People with both conditions are also at increased risk for developing severe complications. When you have diabetes, a healthy eating plan can help you control your blood sugar, as well as manage weight and control other associated risk factors.
A diabetes diet usually recommends eating three meals a day at regular times, so that your body can more efficiently use insulin. A registered dietitian is often an important partner when developing a new, healthy diet, so that you can learn how to improve eating habits, use proper portion sizes, and make nutritious food choices. Using diet as a part of managing diabetes is a crucial way to reduce the risk and symptoms of PAD as well.
People who have hypertension (or high blood pressure) may be advised by their doctor to go on the DASH diet. This includes eating foods that are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. With a DASH diet, it’s important to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugars, and especially those that are high in sodium. The DASH diet may also be helpful in lowering “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood.
Since obesity in itself is linked to an increased risk for PAD—even if you don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol—changing your diet to reach and maintain a healthy body weight is very important. Choose foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Make sure you’re eating plenty of whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Get your protein in more lean forms—like from poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy. Avoid things like excess sodium and sugar, and limit red meat.
PAD reduces blood flow to the muscles in the legs, which is the cause of pain, numbness, and cramping symptoms so common with the condition. Exercise can help these symptoms by improving circulation and increasing blood flow to these areas. Additionally, exercise can help manage and improve the same risk factors listed above that can be affected by diet.
Walking is a great exercise that can help improve PAD, but sometimes people with severe symptoms find that walking causes a great deal of discomfort. Supervised exercise therapy for PAD can be helpful in developing an exercise plan that will be effective for PAD, as well as manageable.
When Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough
When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to ease symptoms and manage PAD risks, it may be time to talk to a specialist about other treatment options. At Beach Wellness MD, we offer several minimally-invasive procedures for people with PAD, including atherectomy, balloon angioplasty, and stenting.
Consult a Trusted Vascular Specialist!
If you have peripheral artery disease, and lifestyle changes haven’t been enough to manage your PAD, talk to a trusted vascular specialist.
At Beach Wellness MD, our primary focus is on restoring the health and quality of life for our patients. Dr. Ali Golshan, MD, is a leading vascular expert who specializes in PAD and other vascular conditions. Dr. Golshan emphasizes one-on-one treatment and designs personalized care plans for each patient.
Contact us online or call us at (310) 620-1851 today to schedule your appointment.
ABOUT DR. ALI GOLSHAN
Ali Golshan, MD, is a double board-certified leading vascular expert who specializes in in-office, minimally-invasive interventional radiology treatments at Beach Wellness MD. Dr. Golshan devotes personalized attention to each patient to develop an individualized treatment plan.
Dr. Golshan graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology. He then earned a Master of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a Doctorate of Medicine from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Dr. Golshan completed a residency in radiology at UCLA and a fellowship in interventional radiology at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.