The peripheral vascular system is composed of the veins and arteries in the arms, legs, hands, and feet—or anywhere outside of the abdomen or chest. This is part of the body’s circulatory system and is responsible for pumping oxygenated and deoxygenated blood throughout the body. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a condition that may develop due to aging and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Fatty deposits gather on the walls of the peripheral arteries and inhibit blood flow. Because of this constriction, patients with PAD often experience pain in their arms and legs from poor circulation. How do you deal with the pain and discomfort of peripheral arterial disease? Here are a few tips and daily habits to help manage your symptoms.
How Do You Deal With Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Men and women over the age of 60 are especially at risk of developing peripheral arterial disease. More than half of those with PAD may notice pain in the feet and legs when walking or exercising. This may be accompanied by hair loss, ulcers, or numbness, among other symptoms in the legs. How can patients with PAD manage their symptoms? Cardiovascular Institute of the South is here with five helpful tips.
1. Elevate Your Legs
Since this condition affects blood flow in your legs, elevating them can be highly beneficial for patients with PAD. This is especially helpful for those who are bedridden. Elevate your legs above heart level to keep blood from pooling in them. This increases circulation to the heart and prevents leg cramps and pain. Elevation can also prevent numbness and bedsores!
Even though walking can trigger pain in the legs, that doesn’t mean that patients with PAD should shy away from physical activity. Instead, gradually build up your tolerance! The best exercises for PAD are walking and cycling. Whichever you choose for your regular exercise routine, start slow. Walk or cycle until your pain reaches a three on a five-point scale. Then, rest until your pain subsides before starting again. This steady exercise can help you to increase pain tolerance, get plenty of exercise in your day, and build stamina for other daily activities.
3. Maintain Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for developing PAD. This is one of the many reasons why it is essential to establish and maintain healthy habits. Abstain from smoking cigarettes, or explore resources that can help you quit, such as Commit to Quit, a program at CIS. Make sure to eat a diet of lean protein and plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These nutrient-rich foods can keep you satisfied and deliver the vitamins and minerals you need into your system. Leading a smoke-free lifestyle and eating healthy is not just a preventative but can also help to keep your symptoms at bay.
4. Know What Medications to Take or Avoid
Your doctor may recommend medications to help manage symptoms of PAD. Warfarin and Coumadin can help to prevent blood clots while pentoxifylline can help to increase blood flow. Or, your specialist may work to target your risk factors of PAD with medication to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, or your risk of a heart attack. Make sure to avoid any medicines that can further constrict blood flow, like pseudoephedrine. Talk with your physician to find the best medication for you.
5. Take Good Care of Your Feet and Legs
When your feet and legs are not getting the proper circulation, it can be very easy for an injury or infection to go unnoticed. Poor blood flow can cause numbness in the feet. This is why it is incredibly important for patients with peripheral arterial disease to check their feet and legs daily. Notice any scratches, scabs, sores, or calluses, and contact a foot specialist right away if any develop. Avoid compression socks and instead opt for comfortable, breathable footwear. Keep your feet and legs warm and dry as cold can further constrict blood flow. And, keep toenails trimmed to prevent cuts and scratches.
Find the Resources You Need With the Cardiovascular Institute of the South
It’s time to take control of your PAD symptoms. At the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, our specialists can help to diagnose your condition and start your treatment journey. Untreated PAD can lead to serious issues, including amputation. Together, we can help you to protect your health and manage your symptoms. Set up an appointment with us today, or contact your nearest clinic. Whether you want to learn more about this disease or are exhibiting risk factors, our doctors are here to help.