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Heart Disease Health Center

Aspirin, Walking Can Reduce Leg Pain From Narrowed Arteries

Study Shows Aspirin as Effective as Pricier Plavix for Peripheral Artery Disease
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PAD Raises Heart Attack, Stroke Risk continued...

If you have pain when you walk in back of one or both of your legs that gets better with rest, then getting checked for PAD may be in order.

Verghese Mathew, MD, agrees. He is an interventional cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The big picture with PAD is all about improving overall heart health. This includes controlling blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and encouraging people to quit smoking if they smoke.

“Intermittent claudication is a symptom, but PAD is a powerful [indicator] of risk for heart disease,” he says.

Mathew says treatment of PAD can sometimes come down to a case-by-case basis. For some people with PAD, Plavix may be better at reducing risks for heart attack and strokes, even though it appears to be similar to aspirin in terms of pain-free walking. “Heart risks should be managed aggressively in people with PAD,” he says.

Juan P. Zambrano, MD, suggests aspirin for people with PAD unless they are allergic to it or can’t take it long-term due to stomach irritation. He is the director of the vascular section of interventional cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Sometimes he needs to bring in the big guns like Plavix, but he usually reserves this for people who are having surgery to open blocked leg arteries.

Importantly, Zambrano says, the study shows the benefits of exercise. “This is one more study that shows you when PAD patients exercise they can walk more and tolerate more distance.”

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