As we all know, walking is one of the best exercises you can do at any age. But when merely taking a stroll causes pain in your legs, it may be a sign of a serious circulatory condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD).
PAD occurs when fatty deposits and calcium building up in the walls of your arteries, narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the limbs. This is also known as arteriosclerosis.
Although it can develop at any age, PAD is especially prevalent in older people. You may also be at risk if you are diabetic or have high blood pressure or cholesterol.
How do you protect yourself against developing peripheral artery disease as you age? If you’re a smoker, quitting the habit will make you less predisposed to arteriosclerosis.
Getting adequate exercise is another preventative measure. Walking, for example, can help improve circulation in your feet and legs.
Also, limiting fat, following a healthy diet, and controlling your weight to avoid obesity is an effective precaution.
However, if you are already experiencing PAD, there are four approaches that have proven to be effective. They include:
- Drug treatment – Depending on the severity of your condition, anti-platelet and vasodilators may be prescribed to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels as a means of guarding against arteriosclerosis.
- Physical therapy – The goal of exercise to treat PAD is to provide a bypass that increase blood flow to the feet and legs. Under the supervision of your doctor, fast walking or light jogging may be recommended. Or, if your legs tend to cramp when you exercise (claudication), you may be instructed to walk for a short distance, rest your feet or legs before they become painful, and then walk again.
- Endovascular treatment – Also known as angioplasty, this solution involves increasing blood flow with the aid of a tube called a catheter that has a balloon attached to it. The catheter is inserted into the obstructed locations of an artery and then the balloon is inflated inside the blood vessel, thus widening it. If that alone doesn’t work, a metallic tube called a stent may be inserted in the blood vessel.
- Bypass surgery – During this procedure, an alternate pathway is created around the obstructed artery by using synthetic blood vessels or your own veins to make new blood vessel constructions. That way, blood can flow past the narrowed artery.
The best way to know if you have PAD is by taking an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, which measures blood flow in your arteries by comparing blood pressure in your ankles and arms. PAD can also be diagnosed using a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or a computerized tomography (CT) angiography.
Dr. Issam Soussou, a vascular and general surgeon specializes in the comprehensive diagnosis and management of diseases and disorders affecting the arteries, veins, and lymphatic system. To learn more about effective treatments for peripheral artery disease or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Soussou, please call Intercoastal Medical Group at our Cattleridge office in Sarasota, Florida, or request an appointment online.