It’s not uncommon to think about changes we’d like to make in our lives.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, we all know the drill: exercise most days of the week; eat a variety of nutritious foods; get enough sleep; keep up with your numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar; don’t smoke; limit alcohol. Reducing stress, improving relationships, and developing new interests or hobbies can also contribute to healthy living.
Making healthy lifestyle changes affects not only our risk for disease and the way we feel today but also our health and ability to function independently later in life. Yet making healthy changes is easier said than done. Even when we’re strongly motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit – or breaking an old, bad one – can be terribly difficult.
But failure to take an active interest in your health can have devastating effects – especially later in life. Uncontrolled blood pressure and cholesterol can lead to a serious condition called PAD.
What is PAD?
PAD is an acronym for peripheral artery disease. It is a common but dangerous medical condition where a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits and cholesterol) makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the arteries. PAD most commonly affects the legs but can also damage arteries in the feet, ankles, pelvis, hips, buttocks, and arms.
PAD is caused by a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries that prevent blood and oxygen from reaching the muscles. PAD increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Left untreated, PAD can lead to chronic pain (claudication), chronic infections and in the most severe cases, amputation of the limbs. It is estimated this condition affects 8 to 12 million people in the United States.
PAD is most common in adults over age 50 and is often associated with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, but it can also occur in younger people. People who smoke are at a higher risk for developing PAD early in life.
If you are the one out of 20 Americans over the age of 50 who have PAD, your doctor has probably already told you that if left untreated, your PAD puts you at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.
Lifestyle Changes for People with PAD
Many people can manage the symptoms of PAD and stop the progression of the disease through lifestyle changes, especially quitting smoking. To stabilize or improve PAD:
- Quit smoking. Smoking contributes to constriction and damage of your arteries and is a significant risk factor for the development and worsening of PAD
- Exercise. Success in treatment of PAD is often measured by how far you can walk without pain. Proper exercise helps condition muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. Your doctor can help you develop an appropriate exercise plan.
- Eat a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat can help control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which contribute to PAD.
- See a vascular specialist like Lam Vascular and Associates if your PAD is not controlled with the above lifestyle changes.
How is PAD treated?
Although there is a lot you can do to stop peripheral artery disease with the lifestyle changes mentioned above, some cases are more severe and require the intervention of a vascular specialist.
There are several prescription drugs that may improve symptoms in people with poor circulation. Some doctors may also prescribe aspirin or other anticlotting drugs.
For more severe peripheral artery disease, the specialists at Lam Vascular may recommend peripheral artery bypass surgery or a minimally invasive vascular procedure such as angioplasty and stenting or laser atherectomy.