If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), you may have noticed that exercise tends to increase your painful symptoms. So, if you want to avoid pain, you probably want to avoid exercise, too — right?
That might seem logical, but in fact, it’s the opposite of what most people with PAD need to do. Exercise is beneficial for PAD — in fact, it’s one of the lifestyle changes that’s recommended for anyone suffering from peripheral artery disease and its symptoms.
At Desert West Vein & Surgery Center, Atur Kasha, DO, helps patients in El Paso, Texas, understand the important steps they can take to manage their PAD symptoms, including the value of regular exercise. Here’s why exercise can actually be helpful for people with PAD.
PAD happens when major arteries in your limbs are clogged with sticky plaque buildup. Plaque collects along artery walls, making them narrower and stiffer. Over time, these changes make it harder for blood to circulate.
PAD becomes more common with age, and it’s associated with other risk factors, too, like:
It’s also a lot more common among people who lead sedentary lifestyles, including people who spend a lot of time sitting at work.
PAD isn't always easy to diagnose. Since discomfort tends to be more common after exercise, many people mistakenly attribute their symptoms to overexertion or muscle strain.
But when you have PAD, the pain you feel actually happens when your muscles aren’t getting the oxygen-rich blood they need to keep up with the demands of your activity. That’s why painful symptoms tend to lessen or go away once the exercise stops and the demand for oxygen declines.
The most common PAD symptoms include:
If you have PAD symptoms — even subtle ones — it’s important to have a medical evaluation, especially if you also have one or more PAD risk factors.
Exercise reduces PAD symptoms by improving circulation in your legs (or arms). When you exercise, your body actually grows new, tiny blood vessels, increasing the number of capillaries that deliver oxygen to your muscle tissue.
Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight and helps reduce the cholesterol in your blood, a primary cause of arterial plaques. In fact, exercise is so important for people with PAD, the American Heart Association recommends a medically supervised exercise program to help reduce painful symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life.
So what kind of exercise should you do? It turns out that walking is a great way to improve blood flow and reduce PAD’s painful symptoms. That’s really great news for most people, since walking doesn’t require expensive equipment or gym memberships, and it can be done indoors or out, regardless of the weather.
Of course, if you have PAD or symptoms of PAD, you shouldn’t just start an exercise plan on your own. It’s important to have a medical evaluation first to assess your arteries and ensure you’re healthy enough to exercise on a regular basis.
PAD: Early treatment is essential
If you have peripheral artery disease, it might be tempting to try to treat your symptoms at home. Even though lifestyle changes are important, you still need medical care.
To learn more about PAD treatment or if you suspect you might have PAD, call 915-260-4602, or book an appointment online with Dr. Kasha and the team at Desert West Vein & Surgery Center today.