claudicationIf, while walking, you feel intermittent pain that subsides when you stop, don’t automatically assume it results from aging or arthritis. The pain may be claudication, which is a symptom of peripheral arterial disease. While peripheral arterial disease is a serious condition that needs to be treated by your physician, the good news is that you can improve the condition with some lifestyle changes and a supervised exercise regimen.

Peripheral arterial disease occurs when arteries are narrowed by a cholesterol-rich material called plaque, making it more difficult for blood to reach muscles in the leg. That is why people may experience pain in the calf, thigh or hip after walking a short distance. When they stop walking, the muscles do not need as much blood; thus, the pain subsides.

Risk factors for peripheral arterial disease and claudication include cigarette smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels. To diagnose this condition, your physician may evaluate your pulse in your ankles and feet, and use ultrasound to check your arteries.

The following lifestyle changes can improve peripheral arterial disease:

  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking is the primary risk factor for the development and worsening of this condition. Continuing to smoke increases the likelihood of amputation and of death from claudication.
  • Control your cholesterol. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains can lower both your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure, and help control the disease.
  • This may seem counterintuitive because walking usually brings on the pain, but regular, consistent exercise, such as walking, can strengthen your heart, improve blood flow to the legs and help your muscles work more efficiently. Your physician may recommend walking four times a week for 30 to 60 minutes.

Diagnosed by your physician with peripheral arterial disease and claudication? Call us for an appointment. We can work with you and your physician on a supervised, customized program that will reduce your claudication and improve your long-term health prognosis.

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