Although there are surgical treatments for this disease of blocked arteries in your lower limbs, the most important risk factors involve you – and how you live. McLeod Vascular Specialist Eva Rzucidlo, MD explains the many things that you and a physician can do to improve your quality of life from Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD):
Here are highlights from Dr. Rzucidlo’s comments:
The most important treatments for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) are risk factor modification. This means changing your overall health to become the healthiest person you possibly can. Your physician can help you in certain ways, but they also need your help.
Quit smoking. That is the most important thing you can do to decrease your risk of PAD, as well as coronary artery disease. Check your cholesterol. If necessary, your doctor will treat you with a cholesterol lowering medication. Your physician may also start you on a baby aspirin. This will help prevent a major event, such as a heart attack, in the future.
There are no medications that can make PAD go away. Scientists are working on it. And, hopefully in the future, we may have a medication. But this is a chronic disease that needs to be managed with help from your doctor and you being as healthy as you can.
Lifestyle modifications are the most important element of controlling your PAD. Smoking cessation is key. Daily exercises are important as well. The American Heart Association recommends that you walk 20 minutes every other day. If you can’t do that, start with what you can do – say 5 minutes a day – and work up to 20-minute walks.
Diet is very important. Eat as many vegetables as you possibly can. Look for foods that are high in fiber and help lower your cholesterol and meats that are high in protein.
If it gets to a point where walking becomes a problem – it changes your quality of life, you can’t work, exercise or do the things you want to do – there are things a vascular surgeon can do to treat you. Technology has improved to the point where we can perform minimally invasive procedures. They can be done on an outpatient basis. You come in the day of the procedure and go home the same day.
We can repair these blockages with stents, just like the cardiovascular surgeons with the arteries in your heart. These stents can be placed through one small hole, no noticeable incision. Now, stents are not perfect and they don’t last forever. So, you still have to live as healthy as you possibly can to prevent new blockages and see your vascular surgeon on a regular basis.
Women are the gatekeepers of healthcare for their family. They take care of their husbands, children and parents. They make sure all these people get to their primary care physicians. But women don’t always take care of themselves.
If you feel you may have Peripheral Arterial Disease, you must see your family physician as soon as possible. Tell them you are having trouble with walking or you suspect that you might have PAD. They will do a physical exam, check your pulse and compare the blood pressure in your arms to the pressure in your legs. This will reveal whether you have PAD. If you do, they’ll send you to a vascular specialist, who can help you better understand the disease and work with you to treat it.
It’s important to know – again remembering that women are the healthcare guardians for their families – that if a woman believes someone else in her family has PAD, she assures that they visit their primary care physician.