• Reducing Your Risk of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    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.

    Quit Smoking

    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.

    Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

    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.

    Eat a Healthy Diet

    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.

    Exercise Regularly

    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.

    Daily Aspirin

    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.

    Manage Other Health Conditions

    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:
    • High Cholesterol
    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension


    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 June 2, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.

    Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.

    Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-PAD%5FUCM%5F301308%5FArticle.jsp. Updated February 26, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2014.

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