When peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs, arteries that carry blood from the heart to the “peripheral” limbs—like the arms and legs—become narrowed or blocked. This causes blood flow to be reduced, causing symptoms of pain and cramping. It can even have dangerous health consequences. PAD may not be able to be entirely prevented, but there are measures you can take to reduce your risk and treatments available if it develops.
What is Peripheral Artery Disease?
PAD affects more than 6.5 million people in the United States who are 40 years and older. The main cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries. It is most common in the legs, but it can affect the arms as well. These plaque deposits cause arteries to be narrowed or blocked. When blood flow is reduced, it can impact the healthy function of your limbs. The risks of PAD can be very serious, including leading to an increased risk for coronary heart disease, stroke and heart attack.
Prevention of Peripheral Artery Disease
PAD has both controllable and non-controllable risk factors, which means some preventive measures can lower your risk, but you may not be able to prevent PAD completely. Some factors that can increase your risk of developing PAD include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
- Renal failure
- Family history of heart disease
- Age over 60 years
- Some less common causes of PAD include inflammation of the blood vessels, injury to the limbs, radiation exposure, or unusual anatomy of the ligaments or muscles.
- African Americans are at increased risk for PAD
- Hispanic patients are at increased risk for PAD
Steps you can take to lower your risk
To lower your risk for PAD, there are certain steps you can take, including lifestyle changes, exercise, and some medications.
- Quit Smoking: You probably already know how bad smoking is for your health, but did you know quitting smoking is a step you can take to prevent PAD? In fact, some studies have shown that smoking is a more influential risk factor for PAD than for coronary artery disease. The good news is that, even though it may seem incredibly difficult, it is possible to quit smoking and eliminate this as a PAD risk factor. Check out some resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on quitting smoking.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity is a great way to improve overall health and reduce risk for PAD. If you have already developed PAD, your doctor may recommend supervised exercise therapy, which can help relieve symptoms and manage the condition. If regular exercise isn’t in your daily regimen already, walking is a great way to get started. You should walk at least 5 days a week. Start with walking 20 minutes a day. Each week, add 5 additional minutes of walking a day, until you’re walking at least 45 minutes a day.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: High cholesterol is a risk factor for PAD that can often be controlled by adopting a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Your diet should include plenty of whole foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as whole grains. Try switching to lean forms of protein, like poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy. Cut out excess sodium and sugar, red meat, and saturated and trans fats.
- Manage Chronic Conditions: If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, it’s important to work with your doctor to keep these conditions under control. Following the first three steps (quit smoking, exercise, and eat a healthy diet) can help manage your health, but you should also take medications as prescribed by your doctor and follow any other instructions your doctor gives you.
- Talk to a Vascular Specialist: If you have concerns about developing or managing vascular conditions, like PAD, don’t wait! PAD can sometimes be prevented and can also be treated once it has developed. If it’s not managed, however, you can develop serious—even deadly—health complications.
Treatment for PAD
If you have already developed PAD, you may need medical treatment, which can include supervised exercise therapy, medications, and minimally-invasive procedures. It’s important to talk with a specialist to make sure you have the right diagnosis and treatment.
Minimally-Invasive Treatments for PAD
Sometimes, minimally-invasive treatments may be recommended for people with PAD. At Beach Wellness MD, we specialize in minimally-invasive PAD procedures, including balloon angioplasty, atherectomy, and stenting.
- Balloon angioplasty: This procedure opens narrowed or blocked peripheral arteries. A tiny needle is placed into an artery, and a flexible catheter is inserted. Guided by x-ray fluoroscopy, a miniature balloon on the catheter’s tip inflates to reopen the affected artery to enhance blood flow.
- Atherectomy: This treatment uses a catheter with an attached cutting tool which removes the plaque that causes arterial blockages.
- Stenting: This procedure can be used to help hold open an arterial blockage. A stent is made from wire mesh that’s tube-shaped and open on both ends. They are placed to reinforce blood vessel walls in an area of previous blockage.
After these minimally-invasive procedures, patients stay for a few hours under medical observation, but can safely go home the same day.
Consult a Trusted Vascular Specialist!
PAD is not uncommon, but can lead to severe health complications and should be taken seriously. 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 today to schedule your appointment.