If you've been told that you have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), this means that your heart isn't pumping blood fast enough through your legs, arms, kidneys or the rest of your body's vital organs. The potential consequences, such as stroke or heart attack, can be catastrophic. But you can take steps to make sure that this doesn't happen to you.
One of the first signals of trouble may be achiness in your arms when you move them, or your legs may hurt when you walk or try to exercise. The temporary pain you're feeling is caused by impeded blood flow, also known as intermittent claudication.
The pain indicates that not enough blood is getting through the veins in your arms or legs because they have been blocked, probably by large deposits of plaque. It can be serious, but luckily, it can also be reversed.
What can you do? According to the Mayo Clinic, PAD can respond well to a series of lifestyle changes. They suggest:
- Quit smoking
- Switch to a low-fat, heart-healthy diet
- Exercise more
- Shed extra weight
You need a doctor's help to battle PAD, so don't try to do it alone. It merits serious attention, especially if you have diabetes, which often makes PAD worse. Drugs, such as anticoagulants, calcium channel blockers or cholesterol-lowering medications can help, too.
If your PAD doesn't get better with diet and drugs, it may be time to think about other treatment methods, such as:
Angioplasty. This common procedure usually requires just mild sedation and an overnight hospital stay. The procedure involves inserting a long, thin tube through your arteries to the site of blockage. Then, a tiny balloon on the end of the tube is inflated to push away plaque.
Stenting. After some angioplasty procedures or in cases when an artery is weakened, place a mesh-tube support (a stent) within the artery to support it.
Endarterectomy. More severe cases of PAD might call for a procedure called an endarterectomy, during which the blood vessel is opened and plaque buildup is cleaned out.
Bypass surgery. Bypass means that a section of bad blockage is avoided by installing a new artery—made from either another of your own blood vessels or an artificial fabric—that channels blood around the damaged area.
If you've just been diagnosed with PAD, time may be on your side. You can jump on the healthy-living bandwagon right now and reverse this disease. Even if you need surgery, the good news is that much of PAD's damage can be undone.