Peripheral Vascular Disease
Follow the recommendations of your health care provider for risk factor reduction. If he or she recommends medication, take the medication as directed. Report changes in your symptoms and any side effects you experience.
The best way to prevent peripheral vascular disease is to reduce your risk factors. You cannot do anything about some of the risk factors, such as age and family history. Other risk factors are under your control.
- Do not smoke.
- Eat nutritious, low-fat foods; avoid foods high in cholesterol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in moderately strenuous physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. At least walk briskly for 20-30 minutes daily.
- Control high blood pressure.
- Lower high cholesterol (especially LDL cholesterol or the “bad cholesterol”) and high triglyceride levels. Raise HDL or “the good cholesterol.” If exercise fails to lower your cholesterol, certain medications (statin drugs) can be taken to decrease the bad cholesterol.
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar level and take scrupulous care of your feet. Ask your doctor what your HbA1C is, a measure of how well your blood sugar is controlled; it should be less than 7.0 for most people. If it is greater than 8.0, the sugar is not controlled, and your risk of blood vessel complications (eyes, heart, brain, kidneys, legs) escalates.
Smoking is a very strong risk factor for developing peripheral vascular disease and can significantly worsen the disease, especially in diabetics. Quitting smoking can often reduce the symptoms of PVD and lower your chance that the disease will get worse.
If untreated, PVD can develop complications that can include:
- Permanent numbness, tingling, or weakness in legs or feet.
- Permanent burning or aching pain in legs or feet.
- Gangrene: This is a very serious condition. It is the result of a leg or foot or other body part not getting enough blood. The tissues die and begin to decay. The only treatment is amputation of the affected body part.
People with peripheral vascular disease are at higher-than-normal risk of heart attack and stroke.