Do you have PAD (peripheral arterial disease)?

Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.

When you walk, do your legs protest? If they seem to tire out or cramp during physical activity, your muscles might not be getting the oxygen they need.

Fatigue and pain in the legs during exercise can be symptoms of a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Older adults, smokers, and people with diabetes have an increased risk of the condition, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery.

Muscles deprived

“Proper blood flow in your legs is very important for overall health,” says Niranjan Reddy, MD, medical director of the Vascular Institute at Soin Medical Center. “If blood flow is decreased, you will develop pain in your legs.”

Fatty deposits can build up in the walls of your arteries and restrict the circulation of blood and oxygen. When it occurs in arteries leading to your heart, it’s called coronary artery disease. When it occurs in the arteries that lead to your lower body, it is PAD.

When you exercise, your muscles need more blood. Leg pain is a sign that your leg muscles are not getting enough blood to meet their needs. Other symptoms of PAD include coldness, numbness or tingling, and changes in skin color in the lower legs or feet.

Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene or amputation. People with PAD are also likely to have narrowed arteries elsewhere, raising the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Take action

PAD is a serious disorder. Fortunately, it can be easily diagnosed with a test in your doctor’s office. Here are some steps you can take:

Talk to your doctor. A simple check of the blood flow to your lower limbs can help your doctor determine if you have PAD. Even if you don't have symptoms, it's a good idea to ask your doctor about testing. "A simple 15-minute test like a blood pressure check is all it takes to check blood flow in your arms and legs," Dr. Reddy says.

Get a healthy arteries screening. This noninvasive ultrasound screening gives your vascular age and detects your risk for stroke and heart disease. It finds early artery thickening, plaque, and abnormal blood flow in arteries prone to plaque.

4 steps to healthier arteries

These lifestyle changes can help improve blood flow:

1. Quit smoking. Check with your local health department for available smoking cessation classes or talk to your primary care physician.

2. Eat a low-fat diet. A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, as well as meat low in saturated fat, such as poultry and fish.

3. Exercise regularly. Start with a 30-minute workout five times a week.

4. Control diabetes and high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise will help.

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