What Should I Do After PAD Diagnosis?

Everybody with PAD should adopt a lifestyle that will fight atherosclerosis. Here are some key elements:

Avoid tobacco in all forms, including secondhand smoke.

Eat right. Cut down on saturated fat (from red meat and whole-fat dairy products) and trans fat (from stick margarine, fried foods, snack foods, and some commercial baked goods). Eat lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fish. Restrict sodium (salt), ideally to less than 1,500 mg a day, by avoiding processed foods, salty snacks, dried or canned soups, and sauces. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two a day. Cut down on portion sizes and calories if you are overweight.

Exercise. Exercise helps with weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and stress, but walking triggers leg pain in patients with PAD. What to do? Walk! If you have advanced PAD or heart problems, your doctor may refer you to a medically supervised exercise program. If you get the okay to walk on your own, plan to set aside 30 minutes at least three days a week. Walk at a comfortable pace, but stop at the first hint of pain. When your legs feel better, start again and repeat the cycle until your time is up. Walking helps your leg muscles use oxygen better, so in time you’ll find yourself walking more and resting less; resistance training can also help. Many men find that exercise training can double or triple their pain-free walking distances, and it may even relieve symptoms as well as angioplasty does. Exercise preserves physical function in men with PAD, and two important studies found that physical activity lowers the overall death rate in patients with PAD.

Reduce stress.

Take care of your feet. Wash them in lukewarm water at least once a day and apply lanolin afterward. Avoid extremes of temperature. Never use a heating pad on your feet. Don’t put them in hot or cold water. If your bed is cold, wear socks at night. Never go barefoot. Wear cotton socks and properly fitting shoes. Place lamb’s wool between overriding toes. Trim your nails carefully. Inspect your feet daily. If your feet ache at night, raise the head of your bed on 6- to 10-inch blocks.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.