Peripheral Arterial Disease
It is always best when you can sit back and not have to give any thought to your blood flow. This natural process helps feed your muscles, give strength to your bones, and get oxygen to your brain. The blood vessels that are used to accomplish these essential processes have smooth linings to prevent clotting and promote steady flow. That is the way it is supposed to work, but there is a disease that narrows the arteries when plaque builds on the inside of those walls. When you are experiencing poor circulation, it is a likely possibility that you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Peripheral Arterial Disease
This condition is a disorder that affects the arteries—specifically, the blood vessels that carry oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to your arms and legs—in your circulatory system. PAD results in a narrowing of those vital arteries and may also be referred to as atherosclerosis or peripheral vascular disease. This ailment progresses at different rates for everyone and is impacted by a variety of factors, especially your overall health.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
This is a progressive disease that builds up during a lifetime, so you may not realize the symptoms until later in life. Observable symptoms may not appear until your arteries have narrowed by 60 percent. At that point, the first noticeable symptom—intermittent claudication—begins to appear. This is essentially leg cramping or pain that takes place during activity, goes away when you rest, and comes back once you resume the activity. Other observable characteristics include weakness, numbness, or fatigue that happen when walking, but are relieved when you rest.
Beyond the initial symptom of intermittent claudication, other symptoms for more advanced stages of PAD include:
- Cold feet
- Color changes of the skin, including redness
- Sores that do not heal
- Frequent cases of infection
- Aching or burning sensation in your feet and toes while you rest
These symptoms are all caused by the poor circulation that happens internally with this disease.
Risk factors for peripheral arterial disease include smoking, diabetes, history of heart disease (whether your own or family history), high blood pressure or cholesterol, and age. People who are older than 50 years old are at higher risk for developing this condition.
Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease
Many of the best practices for treating peripheral arterial disease are centered on making healthy lifestyle choices. Giving up smoking is a major step and you should see your physician to find out more about smoking cessation options. Eating a balanced diet and getting exercise will go a long way to not only taking care of this disease, but also improving your overall health and mood. For a well-balanced diet, aim for foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol. Avoid eating foot that is overly-processed. If you make it yourself, you know exactly what goes into it and you can make sure you eat healthy, natural foods.
With regard to exercise as a way of combatting PAD, do not attempt to do too much too soon. A gradual progression is the best way to go. If you have not been active, start with 20 minutes walking (even if that means four five-minute walks), three days a week and build up from there to a program where you are getting physical exercise six times a week for at least half an hour.
Before you begin these healthy lifestyle changes, come in and see us at our Waukesha, WI office. We will help you develop a plan that works best for you. Remember that Waukesha Foot Specialists is here for you. Call us at (262) 544-0700 to reach our office and get the help you need today!