September is National Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month! This month, a spotlight is cast on the awareness and early detection of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). It is estimated that PAD affects about 10 million Americans—most of which being the elderly. As the prevalence of PAD increases with age, it is especially important for older adults to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease, as well as take preventative measures to help prevent PAD.
PAD is circulation problem caused by atherosclerosis, resulting in insufficient blood flow to the lower extremities. The buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries can often cause intermittent claudication, which is pain or weakness with walking that is relieved by rest. As such, PAD carries significant risks of pain, limited mobility, and adverse vascular outcomes such as stroke and heart attack. Early prevention of PAD not only helps to improve survival, but enhances quality of life and functional capacity.
Risk Factors of PAD
Coronary artery disease and PAD share the same risk factors. Improving your cardiovascular health will therefore also help in the prevention of PAD. Here are some common risk factors of PAD:
· Type 2 Diabetes
· High blood pressure
· Age above 60 years
· High cholesterol
· Family history of cardiovascular disease
· Sedentary lifestyle
· Poor diet
Signs & Symptoms of PAD
Being commonly undiagnosed, it is all the more important to detect the disease early and manage symptoms. Here are some signs and symptoms to be aware of in PAD:
· Leg pain, weakness, or numbness
· Skin on legs and feet that is cool to the touch
· Sores on your legs and feet that won’t heal
· De-coloration and shiny skin on legs
· Loss of hair on legs
· Slower growth of toenails
Most of the above risk factors are modifiable through lifestyle changes, and will therefore enhance quality of life and functionality. Here are some ways of preventing PAD that focus on lifestyle changes and forming new habits:
1. Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of PAD significantly. Quitting smoking will help decrease the progression of PAD.
2. Exercise. Developing an exercise program is effective in helping to improve symptoms of claudication, and to help to slow the progression of PAD. Exercise programs are most effective in a supervised setting.
3. Diet. Eat a diet low in saturated fats and trans fats to help reduce cholesterol. High cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, and increases incidence of PAD. Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as complex carbohydrates.
4. Medical management. Medical management should focus on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as diabetes management. Contact your primary care provider to help with proper medication usage.
5. Foot care. Important consideration must be giving to help treat leg ulcers and foot care when diagnosed with PAD. This will also help to prevent the need for amputation.
a. Wear properly-fitted, supportive shoes.
b. Dry feet thoroughly after washing to help prevent infection, especially between the toes.
c. Keep toenails trimmed to help avoid breakage. Your healthcare provider may recommend seeing a podiatrist to help with this to avoid injury if you have decreased sensation.
d. Inform your provider or any sores or injuries to legs and feet.
PAD is a chronic disease that can help be prevented through lifestyle modification, reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. Happier at Home helps to empower older adults to live independently and maintain a high quality of life while being comfortable in their own homes.