PAD: Progression of the Disease
Save your arteries, save your life.
Your health care provider warns you that your body is showing signs of Peripheral Artery Disease. The name sounds complicated, so naturally you want to understand better what is happening in your body and why. Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD for short, is a catch-all name for conditions that damage your arteries. Weakening artery walls, and plaque trying to repair the artery walls, disrupt the easy flow of blood through the artery vessels. Caught early, progression of PAD can be controlled.
Most often, atherosclerosis is what people, even your medical provider, are talking about when they say PAD or peripheral artery disease. But the name PAD actually means any of the conditions that can afflict the arteries. So listen and ask questions to understand which type of PAD you have. In this article, I address atherosclerosis since this is what many people come to me with questions about. And I am also discussing atherosclerosis because some dear friends and associates of mine have learned their thickening arteries are threatening their well-being.
Later, I will follow up this article with more on other types of peripheral artery disease.
Quiet Signs of PAD
Your provider’s diagnosis of PAD may have come as a surprise because you feel fine, no unusual symptoms. Maybe you feel a little bit of achiness, tightness or heaviness in your legs climbing the stairs, maybe some occasional numbness in your toes or fingers, or maybe some cramping in your legs or buttocks. Rest improves the discomfort and those crampy muscles can mean many things, but these signs can also indicate poor circulation. With PAD, poor circulation results in less blood reaching the muscles during exercise. Think of how blood brings life and warmth to all parts of your body, then you will understand how poor nail and hair growth is also a sign of PAD. Other possible changes include sores on your feet that heal slowly, cold feet especially if one is colder than the other and the corresponding pulse is weak too.
How PAD Happens
Plaque build-up along the artery walls, atherosclerosis, is the most common cause of PAD. Plaque occurs as your body tries to heal damage to the lining of your arteries. For example, high blood pressure from smoking tears at the lining of vessels. Plaque tries to cover the damage. High sugar levels in your body, from diabetes and insulin resistance, damage the lining of blood vessels too. Eating the wrong kinds of fat, which alters cholesterol levels, creates more plaque-building material in your vessels. Since more of these conditions are seen as we age, old age is a risk factor. If you or a close family member have had a stroke, you are at risk for PAD. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and heart conditions all have ways of weakening the artery walls.
PAD Keeps Progressing
If the causes of PAD do not make it obvious why your provider is concerned about your peripheral artery disease, here is a short list of what conditions and discomforts could be in your future unless you take steps now to redirect your body. Having PAD increases the chances you will experience other cardiovascular diseases such as: heart attack, stroke, mini stroke and other threatening heart complications. Once plaque lines an artery wall, more plaque is attracted, eventually making less room for blood to flow through the artery. Clots from the plaque can break away and suddenly jam a heart or brain artery. The symptoms of PAD are uncomfortable and painful but the long term effects are dangerous to your longevity.
Save Your Life
Over time, the effects of poor circulation add up. But you can take steps to slow down PAD and possibly halt its continued ravages to your arteries. You must have a provider to oversee your lifestyle changes, because the provider recognizes and teaches you to recognize the danger signs, helping develop a safe plan back to health. Learn the red flags right away: severe pain in your leg; infections that worsen despite care; loss of feeling in one or both feet; and know the signs of stroke and heart attack. There are surgical repairs for the worst case scenarios or, better yet, get help now to stop smoking and to alter your eating choices in a wise and safe manner. And get more active again to avoid weight gain contributing to plaque build-up and to improve circulation to the areas of your body where bloodflow has been limited by PAD.
As always, there are nutritional changes you can make to ease up some of the load, plaque build-up, your arteries are taking. One of the worst additions to our modern diet that people do not even realize they are eating is sugar in its many forms with its many, many names. Sugar, especially the new forms of sweetener via high fructose corn syrup and its numerous derivations, are added to nearly every pre-made and/or processed food you purchase in our modern nation. Sugar ravishes your body in countless insidious ways. Please review my previous ongoing discussions/articles regarding what has become common knowledge today among providers keeping up with the latest research on nutrition and on research of the effects of modern food additives.
For an example, if you are still choosing the low fat products, you are consuming sugar in far greater than balanced proportions. How can this be so? Besides going back and rereading my articles and the links to the research that I have previously provided, you can contemplate how money is the bottom line when it comes to selling. So what makes you choose a food? Taste figures in there near the top, doesn’t it? When naturally occurring whole fat is removed from a dairy food, the feel-good and taste are altered. To compensate, the big food companies early on recognized a bit-o-sugar makes the medicine go down. Today, in order to keep consumers from noticing they are buying sugar, chemical names and new brand names are given to the various sugars added to foods for flavor.
So heads up! if you have PAD, you need to cut the sugar out of your diet everywhere you can sniff it out! This is a good start. In subsequent articles, I will continue to expose the unsuspected sources of sugar in commonly chosen foods in affluent, wealthy, and developed nations. In subsequent articles on PAD, I will also discuss other ways you can alter your lifestyle to help you win the race against this mysterious killer.
- peripheral artery disease
- vascular disease
Resources (Further Reading)
Related Posts on the Lifestyle Modification Support website:
These are just articles and reviews written by Janet Still MSN FNP. There are also many links on this website with articles by others on the same topic of how to become more aware of what is really going on with your eating habits and what to stay abreast of in the current food industry trends and research on the effects of current food industry practices.
Family Nurse Practitioner Janet Still began writing and sharing fiction and poetry in her early years as a pre-med student. Still expanded her published writing to non-fiction after earning her Masters of Science in nursing in 2007. She is a contributor to academic health forums and blogs and the primary writer on the Lifestyle Modification Support blog.