Last month (September) was peripheral artery disease awareness month. P.A.D (as it is more commonly known) affects around 8.5 million Americans over the age of 60 but what exactly is it and why is it so prolific? More importantly, how do you recognize the signs?
Firstly, what exactly is P.A.D
Peripheral artery disease is a common condition when arteries carrying blood to the legs, arms, head, and stomach – but mostly the legs – become clogged up due to fatty deposits. These deposits then collect on the arterial walls. When this happens, the blood supply to the relevant areas becomes restricted. In many cases, this causes muscle cramping and pain when the affected person moves or walks any distance.
Why is it so prolific?
There are several reasons why peripheral artery disease is so common and much of it – but not all – has to do with our lifestyles. Factors like:
- Carrying excess weight
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking and
- The wearing or compression stockings
can all play a significant part in whether the disease may be more prevalent or not. In addition, age and family history may also be mitigating factors.
In essence, if you are over 60, carry excess weight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or both – then it’s fair to say that you are at greater risk from developing peripheral artery disease.
So, now we know what the disease is and why someone might be more prone to developing it.
How can you spot the signs?
One key may be to pay close attention to your legs. In addition to intermittent leg pain when walking or exercising. Other indicators include:
- Poor or brittle toenail growth
- Skin discoloration on the legs from a healthy pink to a pale or blue color
- Shiny skin caused by restricted blood flow
- Hair loss on the feet and legs
- Shrinking leg muscles
- Ulcers or open sores on the legs and/or feet that don’t appear to heal
While peripheral artery disease itself isn’t life-threatening, the process of plaque-induced artery narrowing, known as atherosclerosis, can lead to further serious and potentially fatal complications. These include:
- Heart attacks and
- Coronary heart disease
Therefore, if you do happen to spot any of the signs that you may have P.A.D, then it’s best to seek medical assistance. The good news is that the problem is treatable and in many cases, it can be reversed using a combination of medication, treatment and lifestyle changes.
If you are experiencing frequent leg pain, and/or notice any abnormalities of the skin then you should seek assistance.
Since leg pain can be caused by both problematic veins and arteries then you need a team of professionals who are experienced in dealing with both issues. The problem is that many vein centers deal primarily with vein disease of venous insufficiency.
However, here at Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT) we are also well versed in dealing with arterial problems including peripheral artery disease. This allows us to treat both blood flow and circulation problems. Either way, Dr. Akinwande will give you a comprehensive examination to determine the root cause of your problems. He will then look to treat the condition using a wide range of non-surgical therapies designed to alleviate arterial clogging.
While it’s good to know that the problem can be treated, prevention is almost always better than cure. So if you are of a certain age then…
How can you prevent peripheral artery disease from occurring?
Just because someone in your family has suffered from PAD doesn’t always mean that you will. You certainly shouldn’t have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s ‘coming your way’. Instead, there are things that you can control that may prevent the problem from occurring. They include:
Getting regular exercise, particularly regular walking can help to prevent arterial clogging. Research shows that just 150 minutes per week is sufficient for maintaining your circulatory system. Other activities include dancing, cycling and strength conditioning – particularly the legs and hips.
Maintaining a healthy diet
Many P.A.D sufferers have elevated or high levels of cholesterol. A low fat or trans fat diet can assist in lowering cholesterol. Foods like
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
- Soy products like soybean and tofu
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and trout
- Liquid vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, canola
are all pretty useful cholesterol busters.
Lower blood pressure levels
Long-term high blood pressure can put a great deal of strain on arteries causing them to narrow. For this reason, maintaining good blood pressure levels is vital. To do this you can
- Maintain a healthy weight – blood pressure often increases as your weight increases, particularly when carrying excess weight around your waist.
- Healthy exercise – around 150 minutes per week can lower blood pressure by somewhere between 5 – 8mm Hg.
- Reducing sodium – Limit your sodium intake to under 2,300 mg per day.
- Limit alcohol intake – Excess alcohol is thought to raise blood pressure levels by several points, so drink alcohol in moderation.
So there you have it! If you are concerned about peripheral artery disease and would like to speak to a professional, then why not book a consultation with Dr. Akinwande. Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy, we offer state-of-the-art treatments with shorter wait times, all carried out in a modern setting. Call today to schedule an appointment or visit our speedy online scheduling.