About 6.5 million men and women in the United States suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), a chronic disease that interferes with circulation in your arms or, most often, your legs.
PAD develops when sticky cholesterol builds up along your artery walls, forming plaques that make the interior of the artery narrower.
PAD causes a variety of symptoms, including leg cramps and pain that worsens when you’re physically active. Without proper treatment, PAD can lead to dangerous infections, tissue death, and even strokes.
At Vayu Advanced Wound Clinic and Hyperbarics in San Antonio, Texas, Manjulatha Badam, MD, CWSP, UHM, diagnoses peripheral artery disease, offering treatments to prevent complications and to treat them when they occur.
Habits that increase PAD risk
Although PAD is relatively common, there are some important steps you can take to reduce your risks of developing the disease and its complications. Changing these three habits forms the cornerstone of PAD prevention.
Smoking is a leading cause of PAD. In fact, some data show that about half of all cases of PAD can be attributed to smoking.
Tobacco smoke contains a number of chemicals that contribute to the development of the sticky plaques, which cause arterial clots in PAD. Those chemicals increase cholesterol levels in your blood, making it easier for plaques to form.
The chemicals also damage the cells lining the arteries, causing inflammation and other damage that make it easier for the plaques to stick to artery walls. Smoking also raises blood pressure while reducing blood flow in your limbs.
Not getting enough physical activity is also associated with an increased risk of developing PAD, along with more severe symptoms. When you’re sedentary, your blood flow slows down, giving cholesterol more time to build up as sticky plaques.
Getting more physical activity also reduces the overall levels of cholesterol in your blood, which decreases the risk of plaque formation.
Cholesterol is the main contributor to sticky arterial plaques, so it makes sense that diets high in cholesterol can also play a big role in the development of peripheral artery disease.
While some cholesterol is necessary for good health, your body makes nearly all the cholesterol it needs, meaning you only need very little cholesterol from the foods you eat.
Cholesterol in food comes from animal products, especially products high in saturated fats, like butter, full-fat dairy, and red meat. Avoid non-animal products that are high in saturated fats, like palm and coconut oils, which promote the production of cholesterol.
Avoiding these fats and loading up on high-fiber fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy omega-3 fat foods can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Other risk factors
Lifestyle habits are called “modifiable risk factors” because they’re under your control — you can change them to reduce your risk of PAD. Other risk factors are nonmodifiable — things you can’t change. These include:
- Older age
- Family history of PAD, heart disease, stroke, or blood vessel disorders
If you have any of these risk factors, pay attention to your lifestyle habits.
PAD is also more common among people with other medical conditions and diseases, including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Clotting disorders
Diseases that affect the blood vessel walls can also increase your risk of developing PAD.
Preventing PAD complications
In addition to diagnosing PAD and recommending treatment, Dr. Badam is skilled in the treatment of leg ulcers, a dangerous complication of PAD.
If you’ve been diagnosed with PAD or if you have any of the risk factors associated with PAD, prompt evaluation and treatment are essential for avoiding more serious problems.
To learn how Dr. Badam can help, call 210-651-1112 or book an appointment online at Vayu Advanced Wound Clinic and Hyperbarics today.