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Heart Disease Health Center

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Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs - Treatment Overview

Your treatment for peripheral arterial disease (PAD) will focus on healthy lifestyle changes first. You may need to take medicines to ease leg pain or to help you manage other health problems.

If lifestyle changes don't help, or if your PAD gets very bad, you may need angioplasty or bypass surgery of the leg arteries.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

What Is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis -- hardening and narrowing of the arteries -- gets a lot of bad press but with good reason. This progressive process silently and slowly blocks arteries, putting blood flow at risk. Atherosclerosis is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease -- what together are called "cardiovascular disease." Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in America, with more than 800,000 deaths in 2005. How does atherosclerosis develop? Who gets it, and...

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It's important to do what you can to improve your health and possibly reverse the buildup of plaque in your arteries. When you have PAD, you have a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Making healthy changes and following your treatment plan can reduce this risk.

Healthy changes you can make

  • If you smoke, quit. Quitting is the best thing you can do when you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
  • Get regular exercise (if your doctor says it's safe). Try walking, swimming, or biking for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. Your doctor might recommend a supervised exercise program if you have intermittent claudication.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.

A cardiac rehab program can help you make lifestyle changes. In cardiac rehab, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you make new, healthy habits.

See Living With PAD for more ideas about changes you can make and about support to help you make them.


You may need medicines to help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. These include medicine to prevent blood clots, improve cholesterol, or lower blood pressure. You might take a medicine that can help ease pain while you are walking.

Procedures and surgery

Sometimes peripheral arterial disease gets worse despite treatment. People who have severe PAD or who are at risk for losing a limb may need bypass surgery or other procedures (such as angioplasty) to restore proper blood flow to the legs.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 13, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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