Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common problem among older adults where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. This circulatory problem is a vascular disease with symptoms such as cramping, fatigue, or pain in the legs and hips when walking or taking the stairs. PAD usually occurs in the legs, though arms can also be affected.
Roughly one in 20 adults in the United States over the age of 50 has PAD, which accounts for about 12 million people, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
How is peripheral artery disease diagnosed?
If you think you have any of the symptoms of PAD, please speak with your doctor. These symptoms include
- Painful cramping in your legs or hips, specifically after activities such as walking or climbing the stairs
- Sores on your feet or legs that do not heal
- Leg weakness or numbness
- Coldness in leg or foot
- Color change in your leg
Your doctor will perform certain exams to diagnose PAD, such as a physical exam, ultrasound, blood tests, duplex ultrasound, and/or angiography. Depending on your specific case, your physician will determine the best exams for diagnosis.
How should I exercise with PAD?
Before starting any exercise regimen, please talk to your doctor.
What’s complicated about peripheral artery disease is that while exercise can help the condition, it can be incredibly painful for patients. The problem is that the less exercise a PAD sufferer does, the earlier the pain will start when they begin any movement.
Many doctors will suggest supervised PAD programs. These programs usually entail walking on a treadmill under the supervision of a professional. Patients will begin the regime by stretching, which will help warm up the muscles. Then, patients will walk on a treadmill at a comfortable pace until they feel a moderate level of pain. Patients may be advised to continue walking through light pain and stop the treadmill when a moderate level of pain begins. Patients will then stop and rest for a certain amount of time until the pain subsides. They will then resume this exercise, starting and stopping with pain. The idea is usually to exercise for a 30-45 minute session, depending on individual needs.
These sessions usually take place with medical professionals to watch for any signs of distress, and they are often held in medical facilities in the event that the patient needs fast attention.
Assessing individual needs
Your doctor will assess your individual needs and capabilities before advising on an exercise plan. Some physicians recommend walking around the mall, and when the pain starts, simply stop and wait for the pain to go away. Other physicians may recommend swimming as a way to help PAD. For all patients, it’s crucial to stop exercise before the pain becomes severe or if you experience any other symptoms such as chest pain.
Exercise can help alleviate the pains of PAD, but it’s important to complete the activity in a safe environment, which means talking to your physician first about what’s right for you. To learn more about PAD and the treatment options, visit our page.