There are a variety of issues that can increase the risk of having a PAD. Fortunately, many of the risk factors can be avoided or managed. The more factors you control, the more you reduce your risk of PAD.
Chemicals in tobacco smoke contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis. Smoking can also cause immediate changes in blood vessels, like spasming, which can affect blood flow.
Quitting smoking is the best way to put yourself on the right track. Talk with your doctor about tools and programs to help you quit. Secondhand smoke can be damaging as well, so try to avoid that when possible.
If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about a plan to lose weight. Adopt a sensible eating plan and exercise regularly. Plan to lose weight gradually to help you maintain your weight at the desired level. Consider consulting with a dietitian, who can help you with meal planning and portion sizing.
Your diet can affect your "bad" and "good" cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
A well-balanced diet includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Also consider substituting bad fats for good fats. This means eating more mono- or polyunsaturated fats like olive and canola oil, and less saturated and trans fats which can raise your bad cholesterol levels.
General guidelines include adding fish, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, to your diet at least twice per week. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take omega-3 supplements.
Regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, using a stationary bike, or treadmill, can help improve blood vessel health and blood flow. Regular exercise will also help strengthen the heart muscle, decrease the heart's workload, and lower blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day on most days of the week.
If you are at high risk for PAD, your doctor may recommend taking daily aspirin to help control blood clots. Blood clots may be more likely to form and cause greater problems in people with PAD. Since aspirin therapy is not without risk, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking an aspirin a day.
Certain medical conditions are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and PAD. While not all risk can be eliminated, carefully managing these conditions can greatly decrease the risk of blood flow problems. Work with your doctor to help manage:
Hills AJ, Shalhoub J, et al. Peripheral arterial disease. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2009;70(10):560-565.
How can peripheral arterial disease be prevented? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pad/prevention.html. Updated November 16, 2015. Accessed June 13, 2016.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114200/Peripheral-arterial-disease-PAD-of-lower-extremities. Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-PAD_UCM_301308_Article.jsp. Updated April 6, 2016. Accessed June 13, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.