Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one of several types of cardiovascular disease. It occurs when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to other areas of the body narrow and restrict blood flow.¹ This can be a particularly painful condition and, if left untreated, may result in conditions as severe as gangrene (which can lead to amputation).
Many factors can increase PAD risk, such as advanced age and type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle factors such as smoking are among them. These lifestyle factors, if managed correctly, can not only reduce risk but also help patients who have been diagnosed with PAD to better control it. What are some lifestyle factors that have an association with PAD?
Smoking and Alcohol
As is the case with other forms of cardiovascular disease, smoking is a significant risk factor for PAD. A 2021 study in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease examined the association between PAD and smoking, among other lifestyle factors.² Health care workers who participated in the study answered a questionnaire to determine if they followed adequately or inadequately healthy lifestyles. Workers with PAD tended to lead less healthy lifestyles.
Smoking cessation is strongly encouraged in patients with a history of tobacco use, as PAD risk is lessened the further they are from their smoking past.
Exercise vs. Sedentary Lifestyle
The researchers also noted that older adults with PAD had a higher likelihood of a sedentary lifestyle than those without. An active lifestyle with more exercise may not only reduce PAD risk, but also help manage existing PAD symptoms. Even starting with a slow, simple exercise regime may help patients relieve their PAD symptoms.³ This includes walking and treadmill-based workouts. Intermittent exercise routines are recommended to try and avoid pain caused by PAD.
Diet and weight are among the greatest risk factors for PAD, as well as other forms of cardiovascular disease. Increased body weight may be associated with an advanced risk of PAD.¹
In terms of diet, patients are recommended to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats. They should also work to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure if they are at increased levels.⁴ The Mediterranean diet is often recommended to patients. A diet such as this puts an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and leaner proteins like fish and poultry.³ Legumes and olive oil are also recommended in similar diets. Foods that are higher in sodium (like red meat), trans fats, and added sugars should be avoided.
1. About peripheral artery disease (PAD). American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/peripheral-artery-disease/about-peripheral-artery-disease-pad. Reviewed June 2, 2021. Accessed November 24, 2021.
2. Chávez-Sosa JV, Rojas-Humpire R, Gutierrez-Ajalcriña R, Huancahuire-Vega S. Association between lifestyles, anthropometric measurements and peripheral arterial disease in public sector health workers. Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2021;11(2):194-202. Published 2021 Apr 15.
3. Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/peripheral-artery-disease/prevention-and-treatment-of-pad. Reviewed June 2, 2021. Accessed November 24, 2021.
4. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) – symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350557. January 14, 2021. Accessed November 24, 2021.