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Heart Disease Health Center

Peripheral Vascular Disease

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Peripheral Vascular Disease Treatment continued...

Medications to help prevent the development and progression of atherosclerosis such as cholesterol lowering medicines are also very important.

Surgery

When the obstructive lesions are long and involve most of the vessel, surgery may be the best alternative. The most widely used operation for a blocked or damaged artery is called a bypass. This is similar to the artery bypass operation done on the heart.

A piece of vein, harvested from another part of your body, or a piece of synthetic artery is used to bypass or detour the obstructed segment of disease, therefore restoring blood flow to the downstream or distal portion of the artery.

Surgery is required less often today, as better preventative anti-atherosclerotic medications and techniques have become available for treating blocked or damaged arteries. With modern treatments, surgery is required only for very severe atherosclerosis that's unresponsive to medications and angioplasty.

Next Steps

Follow-up

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. 

Prevention

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.

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