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Feb 21, 2013

Blood Pressure Medication Improves Walking Ability in PAD Patients

A study of Australian patients with peripheral arterial disease finds that ramipril (Altace) can boost mobility and quality of life.

It’s estimated that 8 million Americans are affected by peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce the flow of blood to the arms, legs and vital organs. Not only does PAD increase risk for stroke and heart attack, about one-third of patients with PAD experience intermittent claudication—leg pain during walking that is relieved by rest. This pain can significantly impair a patient’s ability to move around freely, having a dramatic impact on quality of life. Fortunately, researchers have identified a drug—which is typically used to treat patients with high blood pressure—that may help greatly improve walking ability in patients with PAD.

The drug, ramipril (Altace), is an ACE inhibitor, which helps relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 212 Australian patients with PAD were assigned to take one of two drugs for six months—ramipril or a placebo, which contained no active medication. Patients completed questionnaires about quality of life and performed walking tests on a treadmill to see how long they were able to walk, especially pain-free. At the end of the study, researchers found that patients taking ramipril were able to walk an additional one minute pain-free and an additional four minutes overall. Their physical functioning also improved significantly, according to surveys completed throughout the study.

Although these improvements may not seem like big at first glance, the changes in walking ability could greatly improve quality of life in patients with PAD. Increasing a patient’s ability to walk, even by a few minutes, can have a huge impact on physical functioning and one’s ability to move around freely. This study also suggests that ramipril is far more effective than other drugs currently used to improve walking ability in patients with PAD. Although more research is needed to better understand the impact of ramipril and other ACE inhibitors on symptoms of PAD, results are extremely promising for the millions of patients with PAD who have limited physical functioning and significant pain during physical activity.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is intermittent claudication?
  • Intermittent claudication is leg pain that a person experiences during physical activity, like walking, which goes away during rest. This condition typically occurs in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) due to too little blood flow.
  • How is peripheral arterial disease (PAD) diagnosed?
  • PAD can be diagnosed in a few different ways, including a physical exam, ankle-brachial index (ABI), blood tests, ultrasound and angiography.

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