Exercises to Prevent PAD: Walking

There are many different exercises to prevent Peripheral Artery Disease  (PAD). Your health and lifestyle will determine their effectiveness.  Walking is useful to improve the mobility in patients with peripheral artery disease. If you have PAD you may experience muscular weakness in your lower legs. This is due to compromised blood-flow capacity and altered muscular metabolism. You may also experience pain lifting weights as it increases your blood pressure.

Exercise Therapy to Reduce Complications of PAD

In advance cases of PAD, the blood flow can limit to the extent it becomes limiting even at rest. PAD can lead to pathological changes, ulcers and gangrene or tissue death. The doctor may have to amputate or cut and remove the lower leg from the body to prevent further tissue death and infection.[3] As such, strength training of the lower leg muscle becomes important.[4]

Walking is The Best Exercise for Peripheral Artery Disease

Why is walking the best exercise for peripheral artery disease? Walking is low impact and elevates your heart rate. You should walk at least 5 days a week, increasing the length of your walking session by 5 minutes each week. The goal is to be able to walk for 45 minutes continuously. You should see improvements in your symptoms after 3 to 6 months of walking regularly. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you experience chest pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, stop the exercise and call your doctor.

Avoid exercises that put a strain on your heart and brain if you are living with PAD. You may not be able to meet the increased demand of blood due to arterial plaque. As such, heart attack, heart failure or stroke are more likely to occur. Also, you should avoid activities requiring extensive footwork. For example, dancing or climbing may cause cramping pain in legs due to lack of a healthy blood supply.  This is why we promote walking as the best exercise for peripheral artery disease.

More Exercise Therapy: Structured Treadmill Walking Exercise

Treadmill walking is one of the easiest exercises to prevent PAD. You should be allowed to determine the preferred walking speed. Training sessions should consist of intermittent bouts of walking and resting. One should begin at an initial speed that brings on claudication within 2 to 5 minutes. Claudication is muscle fatigue in the lower leg that occurs with exertion and is relieved within 10 minutes of rest. It is characterized by cramping, aching or pain in the calves, thighs or buttocks. Make a progressive increase in your walking time on the treadmill. Stop and sit when you experience moderate-intensity pain (3 or 4 on claudication pain scale). Resume when the pain has subsided completely, and repeat the process till 30 minutes. Progressively increase your total time (walking + resting) to 60 minutes as your walking duration improves.

Using Wearable Technology to Track Exercise for Peripheral Artery Disease

During your exercises to prevent PAD you should walk on the treadmill at a speed of 2 mph. Those who are unable to do this should begin at 0.5 mph. Then increase by 0.5 mph every two minutes until you can maintain a speed of 2.0 mph.

When you reach a speed of 2.0 mph, you should increase the treadmill grade by 2% every two minutes until fatigue or other symptoms prevent you from continuing.[6] Wearable technology such as activity monitors in the form of wristbands or pedometers can be used to collect objective data about the free-living physical activity in daily life.

If you’re walking duration is too short or you are unable to perform the treadmill exercise for peripheral artery disease, then alternative forms of exercises, such as seated aerobic arm exercise, lower extremity cycling, brisk walking, bicycle ergometer and recumbent total body stepping should be tried out.

An extended exercise program that includes walking five times a week at a significant intensity that requires frequent periods of rest is recommended.

Risk to Heart and Brain Due to PAD

If you have PAD, you’re at an increased risk of developing blockages in other arteries also, such as those leading to heart and brain, that makes you susceptible to heart attack and stroke.[7]

Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease

PAD is diagnosed through a physical exam, personal risk factors such as obesity and old age and a history of leg or heart problems. This is because PAD increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.[8]

At  USA Vascular Centers, we use a specialized, non-surgical and outpatient procedure for PAD treatment, which is known as angioplasty with stent placement. Unlike the vascular surgeons that reroute blood flow with bypass surgery, our PAD specialists make use of the non-surgical procedure for your PAD treatment.

Your doctor will insert a catheter into your leg artery through a small incision. The catheter is a thin flexible tube with a camera on the end. This allows the doctor to see inside your arteries and locate the blockages. The procedure does not require general anesthesia, however you will require a sedative to minimize pain.

How the Non-Surgical PAD Procedure is Done

During the procedure, a specialist will inject a special dye into your leg artery. This makes the veins more visible and allows the doctor to see exactly where the problem is. Then, an image of your blood flow will appear for you and the doctor to observe and determine a treatment plan. A catheter will then be inserted into the site of the blockage. This catheter has a balloon at the tip that expands and locks inside the artery. This opens up the blockage and allows blood to pass through normally. After the procedure, you may require additional follow-ups to ensure the stent is adjusting correctly.

Advantages of Stent Angioplasty

One of the advantages of stent angiography is that it allows for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment of PAD. Once the doctor locates the blockage, they will widen it by inserting a balloon and placing a stent at the site of blockage to improve and maintain healthy blood flow. The stent is a small wire mesh tube used in angioplasty to prop the artery open. It also is to decrease its chances of narrowing again. The traditional bare-metal stents are rarely useful; most stents have a coating with slow-releasing medicines, which are known as drug-eluding stents that help in preventing further blockages. The medicine releases over a period of time to prevent further the chances of blockage, while medicine at the outer surface of the stent helps in preventing infection.

Post-Procedure Care

When you return home, keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to help your body flush the contrast dye used to detect blockage in your artery. Avoid lifting heavy objects and doing strenuous exercises for at least a couple of days afterward. You may need blood-thinning medications, such as clopidogrel for at least six months to a year after your procedure.

The objective of our PAD treatment is to make your blood flow efficient and healthy and to improve your overall quality of life. Post-procedure medicines will help preserve your ability to be active and stabilize blockages already present in other body arteries. You should also do some lifestyle changes, such as eating low-cholesterol, low-fat and heart-healthy diet, and quitting smoking to get the best outcomes from your non-surgical PAD treatment.

Call us at 888.773.2193 or request an appointment online.

We have PAD treatment centers located across the country, in 16 states. Visit a PAD clinic near you to take the first steps towards healthier legs and a healthier life.