September 1st, 2023
Do you have pain in your legs? If so, it may be due to peripheral artery disease (PAD). This condition is a form of cardiovascular disease that results in the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries that limit or block blood flow. It most often affects the legs, but may also affect the arms or other parts of the body.
If you have been diagnosed with PAD, you may be concerned about how this condition will affect your life. The good news is that with a few healthy lifestyle changes, you can not only live with this condition but may even be able to halt the progression of the disease or reverse any symptoms you are experiencing.
Here are 7 ways to improve your health and quality of life if you have PAD:
- Walk more. One of the most common symptoms of PAD is pain when you are walking. Although it may seem counterintuitive to recommend walking as a way to improve your PAD symptoms, walking is one of the best things you can do if you have PAD because it gets your blood flowing. If you experience pain when walking, take a break and wait for the pain to subside. Then resume your walk. You may have to start slowly, but the more you do it, the better you’ll start to feel and the longer you’ll be able to walk.
- Do other exercises, too. If you find walking difficult or boring, there are other ways to be physically active. Consider swimming, riding a bicycle or doing yoga. The key is to find something you enjoy doing so you’ll stick with it because exercising regularly is an important component of managing PAD and improving symptoms.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. What’s good for your heart is also good for your legs if you have PAD. Following a heart-healthy diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, lean meats and healthy fats helps keep your cholesterol and weight under control. This can help ease PAD symptoms and halt the progression of the disease.
- Take care of your legs and feet. Since PAD causes reduced blood flow, it can result in pain, numbness and other symptoms that affect your lower extremities, such as slow healing. Treat your legs and feet well by wearing comfortable and supportive shoes. Stretch before and after activity and wiggle your toes often to improve circulation. Check your feet and legs for anything that doesn’t look right, including sores, cracks or signs of infection. Keep feet clean and dry and moisturize your skin so it doesn’t dry out. If your feet get cold (a common symptom of PAD), wear thick, dry socks to keep them warmer.
- Don’t smoke. If you smoke, a PAD diagnosis is the perfect time to quit. Smoking makes it harder for your arteries to carry blood throughout your body. Quitting not only helps improve symptoms of PAD but may lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Not smoking can improve your health in many other ways, too.
- Manage other health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, it can make your PAD worse. As you manage these other conditions, you’ll also be helping to manage PAD.
- Avoid certain medications. Any drugs that narrow your blood vessels may make your PAD symptoms worse. One common culprit is over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines that contain pseudoephedrine. Check labels and avoid medicines containing this ingredient.
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