This blog post is about how walking can help to both detect PAD and treat it, preventing amputation or limb loss. 

How Walking Can Help Detect PAD 

Peripheral Artery Disease is a common chronic condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the legs, especially while walking. We’ve heard from several PAD patients that living with this disease can be frustrating and confusing. The CDC says that about 6.5 million adults over the age of 40 have PAD. Even though so many people have PAD, there is still a lot of confusing information about how to manage it.   

What we do know is that getting older does not mean a person will develop PAD symptoms. When a PAD diagnosis is missed, patients are at higher risk for avoidable amputations of toes, feet, or even legs. In fact, the terminal, or end-stages of PAD, called chronic limb-threatening ischemia (or CLTI) leads to more death and disability than some cancers.  

One of the major reasons PAD is not caught early is because both older adults and some providers believe that walking gets harder with age. They might think it’s arthritis or just “aches and pains.” While some people with PAD do not experience symptoms, pain while walking is the most common and important symptom to report! If you or a family member is experiencing pain while walking and have never been diagnosed with PAD, it’s important to discuss these symptoms with a care provider right away. You can bring this blogpost with you to the doctor or you can contact patients@vascularcures.org for more information. Be sure to check out our PAD page as well!  

How Walking Can Help Treat PAD 

As people develop PAD symptoms or are diagnosed with PAD, they will probably hear they need to walk more. Yet walking can sometimes feel harder when you have PAD. The pain and discomfort that PAD patients experience is due to their legs and toes not getting enough blood and oxygen because of blockages in the legs’ arteries. But walking isn’t only a way to detect PAD. For patients with a confirmed diagnosis, walking (under medically supervised care and recommendation) can help reduce the symptoms and progression of PAD.

PAD patients are often advised to walk through the discomfort and pain. This is important because walking can build small channels of blood vessels, called “collateral vessels” that improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the tissues. In short, the more “collateral vessels” a person has, the more blood flow and oxygen is supplied to the tissues. This is an important way to prevent limb loss or amputation. Numerous studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of walking on treating PAD. One of our patient partners, Steve, even talks about how he managed to limit the effect of his PAD by walking continuously

So, what’s next?  

Before starting your own walking plan, there are important things to consider. First, discuss questions and concerns about PAD with your care provider. They can help you figure out what care plan is right for you. You can also talk to a vascular specialist, either a vascular surgeon and/or a vascular medicine doctor, about the kind of walking plan that fits your needs. For people who are at-risk or unsure of their risk, it’s important to get screened right away. This is especially true if you are over the age of 50, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol. Check out our resources on tests such as the Ankle Brachial Index here and talk to your provider to see if this test is right for you.

Vascular Cures has always promoted the importance of walking. We have a great new walking resources page that focuses on all the benefits of walking for treating vascular disease. http://vascularcures.org/patients/walking-resources/

Resource Links:  

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