It is essential to learn about factors that may place you at risk for developing peripheral artery disease (PAD) as you age. Addressing these risk factors may not only reduce the likelihood of developing PAD but may significantly lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Many of these risk factors can be addressed through lifestyle changes while others may require intervention with medications.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can lead to weight loss and improve your fitness level. A general guideline is to perform 30 minutes of cardio exercise, five days a week. If you can do it daily and make it a habit, that is even better.
- Avoid tobacco products: If you are a smoker, ask your doctor about ways to quit. There are many programs and products that can help you.
- Monitor your weight: If you are overweight or obese, consult with your doctor about a healthy weight loss program which includes a healthy diet and exercise.
- Eat healthy: A healthy diet is an essential part of any program to help prevent cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet consists of multiple servings of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and nuts. Avoid foods with solid fats, added sugars and refined grains. How you prepare your food is also very important. Avoid foods that are deep fried in oil or prepared with shortening or butter. Try to eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, salmon, almonds and walnuts.
- Control blood pressure: Check your blood pressure regularly, avoid salt and take medication if your doctor advises it.
- Lower cholesterol: Addressing abnormal cholesterol with diet and/or medication could help in reducing plaque build-up. You have to check your cholesterol level by having a blood test.
- Treat elevated blood sugar (diabetes): Having your doctor check and monitor your blood sugar may also help you maintain healthy circulation.
While some factors cannot be controlled, including family history, age, race and gender, it remains important to focus on the factors that you can control. If you are at risk, your doctor may look for other less common risk factors including chronic kidney disease, or elevated levels of C-reactive protein or homocysteine (so-called "inflammatory markers") in the blood.
Last but not least, it is critical to take good care of your feet and legs. Inspect them regularly and keep the skin soft with lotions. Be careful with toe nail clipping, wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes and see a podiatrist if you have any concerns about or if you have multiple risk factors for developing PAD.