Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States struggle with peripheral artery disease (or PAD).
Are you concerned that you might be dealing with this medical condition? Have you been wondering whether or not you should have a peripheral artery disease test?
Read on to learn more about testing for peripheral artery diseases. You’ll also find some tips on how to manage and prevent this condition.
What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral arterial disease is a condition characterized by narrowing of or blockages in the vessels that carry blood from your heart to your legs. It is typically caused by fatty plaque buildups in the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis). PAD can affect any blood vessel, but it most commonly affects the blood vessels in the legs.
Anybody can develop PAD. However, those who smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes are more likely to receive this diagnosis. Those who are older than 60 are more likely to be diagnosed, too.
Symptoms of PAD
Most people who develop peripheral artery disease first notice pain in their legs during physical activity. They may also experience pain, aches, and cramping in the buttocks, hips, thighs, or calves.
Some additional warning signs of PAD include muscle weakness, hair loss, and skin that is cool to the touch. A decreased or absent pulse in the feet is common, too, along with sores and ulcers in the legs or feet that don’t heal.
What Is a Peripheral Artery Disease Test?
If you’re experiencing symptoms like those described in the previous section, it’s possible you are dealing with peripheral artery disease. To be certain, though, you’ll need to get some additional testing done.
To diagnose peripheral artery disease, physicians can use a few different types of tests. One of the most popular tests is known as an ankle-brachial index (or ABI).
ABI is a noninvasive test that measures blood pressure in the ankles and compares it to blood pressure in the arms, both after exercise and at rest. If the blood pressure in the ankles is different from blood pressure in the arms, that’s an indicator that blood flow to the lower extremities is being interrupted.
Physicians may also use ultrasounds, magnetic resonance angiography (or MRA) tests, and computed tomographic angiography (CTA) tests. All of these imaging tools help them to get a better look at what’s happening in the body.
How to Treat PAD?
Peripheral artery disease is often treated using a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. The following are some of the most well-known approaches:
Blood-thinning drugs like aspirin help to prevent serious complications from PAD and atherosclerosis
Medications to reduce blood cholesterol can prevent atherosclerosis from getting worse
Smoking will worsen atherosclerosis and can also impact blood circulation, so it’s important to quit
In some cases, you may also need surgery to help your body maintain healthy blood flow and blood pressure. Some potential procedures your doctor might recommend include:
A catheter gets inserted through a small incision to reach a blocked artery, along with a tiny balloon to hold the artery open
Plaques get removed from the artery with the help of a catheter
When a long portion of an artery becomes completely blocked, a vein from another body part is used to reroute blood flow around the blocked artery
Most of the time, doctors will start with the less-invasive options like medication and lifestyle changes. If these aren’t effective, though, or if your symptoms are particularly severe, they will move on to surgery.
How to Prevent and Manage PAD?
Whether or not your peripheral artery disease test comes back positive, you can likely still benefit from implementing certain lifestyle changes. Listed below are some of the most important strategies you can utilize to improve your health and reduce your chances of developing PAD:
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PAD yet, it’s still important to quit smoking.
Smoking will increase your chances of developing PAD and a wide range of other health conditions. The sooner you quit, the sooner your body can start repairing itself, and the less likely you are to struggle with these issues in the future.
Regular exercise is also important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and reducing your risk of PAD. Even simple exercises like walking or stretching can help you to improve blood flow and prevent plaque buildup.
If exercise isn’t part of your routine right now, consider working with a personal trainer or another professional who can supervise you and provide direction as needed. This will reduce your risk of injury.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet will also reduce your risk of developing plaques that contribute to PAD. The following are some of the most heart-healthy foods that should be included in your diet:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
It’s also important to limit your consumption of problematic foods like trans fats, sugar, red meat, and alcohol.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to manage your symptoms and keep your blood sugar levels regulated.
Some of the other strategies listed above, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, will also help you to manage your diabetes in addition to reducing your risk of PAD. Taking medications for glucose management is essential, too.
Get Help for Peripheral Artery Disease Today
Peripheral artery disease is a serious health condition. If it’s not addressed right away, it can escalate and create serious problems, particularly with your legs and feet.
If you think you might be dealing with PAD, it’s important to get a peripheral artery disease test as soon as possible. Keep the tips for treatment and prevention outlined above in mind, too, so you can manage your symptoms and improve your outcomes.
Do you want to learn more about handling PAD or other types of cardiovascular medical conditions? If so, check out some of the other health-related articles on our site today to continue your research.