Treating and managing peripheral vascular disease—PVD, also known as the peripheral arterial disease, or PAD—is our primary disease focus. PVD/PAD affects as many as 12 million American adults, most of them over age 50. It’s caused when plaque (essentially, fat) deposits clog the arteries in the legs and limit blood flow there. It’s a serious condition that raises the risk of stroke or heart attack. As we discuss in our overview of PVD, there are many symptoms of this disease. This article will tell you how to recognize risk factors for PVD early and review what you can do to manage vascular health.
Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease/Peripheral Arterial Disease
Some of the risk factors for PVD/PAD include common inherited conditions while others are aggravated or even caused by certain lifestyles. Let’s start with family disease histories that can put you at risk.
- Atherosclerotic disease including PVD/PAD, coronary heart disease, and chronic kidney disease
- Type 1 diabetes
Some lifestyle issues also put a person at risk for PVD:
- *Overweight or obesity.
- *High LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that deposits on artery walls and combines with white blood cells to form plaque. Triglycerides are a type of fat that collects in the bloodstream.
- *Low HDL cholesterol. Higher HDL levels lower LDL cholesterol.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Low physical activity.
Factors with an asterisk are also believed to be influenced by genetics.
Managing Risk Factors that Affect Vascular Health
Many of these risk factors can be managed together by planning meals, snacks, and exercise routines. Patients with diabetes often work with an endocrinologist—a specialist who treats diabetes—and a nutritionist to plan out appropriate meal plans and exercise regimens. If you have Type 1 diabetes, chances are you have been in a treatment plan for most of your life. We can’t overstate the importance of sticking to this plan and regularly visiting your endocrinologist.
Most diet plans will focus on lowering carbohydrates and salt. Carbohydrates are in just about every food, so the trick is to recognize which ones have fewer of them. Nutritionists work with anyone interested in lowering the risk factors listed above to plan healthy meals and snacks, with a focus on meats, poultry, and fish from the grocery counter, not the frozen food section (except for those that are frozen whole). Other staples of a low (or lower) carbohydrate diet include:
- Low-starch vegetables. Here is a useful vegetable guide.
- Low-sugar fruits. Check out this guide to low carb/low sugar fruit.
- High-fat cheeses. Fat keeps you feeling full and cheese has calcium to help your bones stay strong as you exercise.
- Nuts, seeds, butter, oils. These also have a high-fat content. Use them for seasoning so that you don’t eat too much fat.
Exercise uses up glucose in your body up to 24 hours after a workout. If you don’t have diabetes, it stimulates the insulin to properly manage glucose levels. If you do have diabetes, be sure to discuss your food and exercise plans with a nutritionist and your physician to avoid hypoglycemia, a sudden and potentially dangerous drop in glucose Less active patients are often advised to start out with low-impact exercises, such as regular walks, swimming, and balance work like tai chi. Their goals should be to lengthen each exercise period over time. Later, they can move into more aerobic exercise, such as bicycling (including a stationary bike). When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, there are medical and surgical procedures that can ease symptoms. We offer several vascular disease treatments and would be happy to discuss them with you. Contact us today to learn more!