3 strategies for lessening symptoms of peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem where narrowed arteries in your arms and legs reduce blood flow. This prevents your legs and arms from getting enough blood flow to keep up with demand. Here are some tips to keep peripheral artery disease at bay.

3 strategies for lessening symptoms of peripheral artery disease

Stop smoking

The best strategy for successful quitting smoking? A combination of nicotine replacement products, a prescription antidepressant, and counselling.

  • In one study, smokers with PAD who kicked the habit doubled or even tripled their pain-free walking distance.
  • 16 percent of smokers who didn't quit went on to develop severe PAD in just a few years, compared with none of those who quit.
  • Ditching the cigarettes also lowers your risk of amputation (about four percent of people with PAD eventually require this grisly procedure) and cut your odds of having a heart attack or stroke.

Try compression stockings for faulty vein valves

If you have varicose veins or a condition called chronic venous insufficiency, faulty valves in the veins in your legs allow blood to pool in your legs instead of being pushed back to your heart.

  • One comfort solution is prescription compression stockings. These elastic stockings squeeze veins and prevent excess blood from flowing backward and stretching out weakened blood vessels.
  • Worn regularly, the specially made stockings can ease pain, prevent more swollen veins from developing, and even help sores heal.

Walk, walk, walk!

We know it hurts. But this is one time when pushing yourself a little (but not too much!) does yield real benefits.

  • After quitting smoking, exercise is the most powerful move you can make to cut the pain and immobility PAD can cause — and to reverse the artery clogging that makes it worse.
  • Exercise works its magic by lowering levels of inflammation in the bloodstream, making artery walls more flexible, and improving the way muscles use oxygen.
  • Exercise may even trigger the growth of new blood vessels to deliver oxygen and nutrients to hungry muscles.
  • If you have access to a medical centre that offers exercise programs for people with PAD, give it a whirl — you'll get personal attention and plenty of motivation.
  • In one study, people in a supervised walking program nearly tripled their pain-free walking time.
  • Home exercise is just as effective if you stick with it, so why not find a walking buddy in your neighbourhood and get started?
  • In one Northwestern University study of 417 men and women with PAD leg pain, those who walked for at least 30 minutes three times a week saw no worsening of their symptoms, but those who didn't walk at all or walked for less than a total of 90 minutes per week did.
  • Be patient; it may take six months or more to see dramatic benefits. And if you can walk longer than 30 minutes, do so. Some experts say that hour-long sessions ultimately provide more pain relief.
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