Peripheral arterial disease more commonly referred to as PAD occurs when the outer (peripheral) arteries that serve the head, neck, and stomach narrow. This ‘narrowing’ occurs when the arterial walls become clogged with plaque. One of the most severe forms of PAD is critical limb ischemia which occurs when the arteries in the lower extremities (particularly the legs) experience a severe blockage.
If left untreated, critical limb ischemia can result in a 50% mortality rate which is higher than many other cardiovascular diseases, and often, the disease can result in amputation within six months of a diagnosis.
While PAD doesn’t yet have a cure there are progressive steps or changes that you can make in terms of lifestyle to prevent issues like critical limb ischemia from occurring. So even if you have been diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease, by taking steps early, it is possible to avoid the devastating symptoms associated with critical limb ischemia. With this in mind, here are 8 key tips.
Tip #1 – Quit smoking
Did you know that smoking can damage the lining of your arteries and can also lead to a fatty build-up on the arterial walls? So in addition to being at risk of critical limb ischemia, any kind of narrowing also puts you at risk from other problems such as a stroke or heart attack. Also, carbon monoxide inhaled from tobacco smoke deprives the blood of essential oxygen which your limbs and vital organs need to thrive.
Tip #2 – Be a healthy weight
You probably know that obesity can cause a cholesterol build-up. But what you may not know is that it can also lead to arterial blockage and eventually critical limb ischemia. So while being overweight can contribute to many health problems, you are also at risk of developing PAD.
While losing weight is easier said than done for many people, switching dietary habits could be enough to kickstart the weight loss process. One of the best diets for your overall health is a Mediterranean diet.
Mediterranean eating is rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oils, and legumes. It promotes proteins like fish, seafood, and lean white meat such as chicken but limits red meats. Some studies even suggest that this diet lowers hypertension and the progression of vascular disease.
Tip #3 – Move around more
Whether you are currently in a sedentary job or are retired but tend to sit around more, regular movement is vital to improve circulation. It doesn’t need to be anything particularly strenuous. Studies show that regular walking for as little as 30 minutes a day is sufficient to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems including PAD-related critical limb ischemia by 31%
If it feels painful to walk then you might want to opt for supervised or assisted exercise. Structured Exercise Therapy (SET) can be tailored to a patient’s specific needs and can be more effective than unsupervised exercise.
Tip #4 – Ensure diabetes is properly controlled
Currently, it’s estimated that over 34 million Americans (around 10% of the population) have diabetes. Unfortunately, those with diabetes are also 4 times more likely to be at risk of developing severe cardiovascular problems like critical limb ischemia. A combination of a good diet interspersed with regular exercise is usually enough to keep insulin levels under control and diabetes in check.
Tip #5 – Lower your cholesterol
If you have a cholesterol rate of more than 6 millimoles per liter of blood you are at significant risk of developing arterial disease and by default are also at higher risk of developing more severe problems like critical limb ischemia. With this in mind, you might want to make the following dietary changes which include:
- Avoiding trans fats – the type found in margarine, cakes, and cookies
- Introducing more omega 3 into your diet- Omega 3 can be found in foods like fish and nuts.
- Cutting down on saturated fats – the type found in dairy products and red meat
- Increasing your intake of natural fiber found in apples, pears, and oatmeal
- Incorporating whey protein found in some dairy products or powder form
Tip #6 – Keep blood pressure levels down
High blood pressure is known to play a significant role in the development of arterial disease. High blood pressure – anything over 140/90 places added pressure on arterial walls thus weakening them. Arteries that are weakened are more vulnerable to arterial narrowing or plaque build-up. This in turn can cause severe arterial disease such as critical limb ischemia. Blood pressure can be lowered by adopting many of the changes above, particularly when it comes to exercise and diet. But also you might want to…
- Lower your caffeine intake
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Lower stress levels and
- Decrease your daily salt intake
Tip #7 – Consider genetics and age factors
If your family has a history of peripheral arterial disease or similar problems such as claudication or atherosclerosis it’s important to be proactive about your vein health. So even if you have no current signs of PAD and you are over the age of 50, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting tested. This way, any problems or symptoms can be treated early before they have a chance to escalate.
Tip #8 – Take good advantage of treatment options
If you are diagnosed with vascular problems such as PAD, it’s important to take advantage of the number of treatments available to help control arterial disease before it takes on a more serious form like critical Limb Ischemia. Treatments such as angioplasty, atherectomy, and stent placement can all help you to lead a better and trouble-free life.
If you have
- Shiny or excessively dry skin on your feet or legs
- Suffer from numbness or pain in the feet
- Have thickened toenails
- Experience skin infections, sores, or ulcers on the legs that won’t heal
- Or have a weakened pulse in the leg area
Then consult with your doctor or visit a vein/artery specialist.
At the Midwest Institute for Non-surgical Therapy, Dr. Goke Akinwande specializes in vein and arterial health. He and his experienced team provide the latest non-invasive treatment for patients diagnosed with varicose veins, pelvic vein, and deep vein problems.
Don’t suffer from vein or arterial discomfort. Instead, visit our website and book a consultation today.