Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can help manage peripheral artery disease. Other treatments, including medications and surgical procedures, may also be recommended.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that affects the arteries all around your body, not including those that supply the heart (coronary arteries) or the brain (cerebrovascular arteries). This includes arteries in your legs, arms, and other parts of your body.

PAD develops when fatty deposits or plaque accumulate on the walls of your arteries, which causes inflammation in the walls of the arteries and reduces blood flow to these parts of the body.

Reduced blood flow can damage tissue, and if left untreated, lead to amputation of a limb.

PAD affects over 230 million people worldwide and occurs more often in older adults.

Risk factors for PAD include smoking, high blood pressure, and a history of diabetes or heart disease.

Symptoms can include:

  • pain or numbness in the legs or arms, especially with walking or exercise
  • weakness
  • poor nail growth
  • lower body temperature in your legs or arms
  • lack of hair and shiny skin on the legs
  • slow healing wounds

PAD can raise the risk of a stroke or heart attack because people who have atherosclerosis in these arteries can also have it in other arteries. However, treatments are available to prevent life-threatening complications.

This article will take a closer look at some effective ways to treat and manage PAD.

The goal of treatment for PAD is to improve blood flow and reduce blood clots in the blood vessels. Treatment also aims to lower blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent further PAD.

Since plaque accumulation causes this disease, a doctor may prescribe a statin, which is a type of cholesterol-lowering drug that can reduce inflammation.

Statins can improve the overall health of your arteries and reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke.

A doctor may also prescribe a medication to reduce your blood pressure. Examples include:

A doctor can also recommend drugs to prevent blood clots, such as a daily aspirin or another prescription medication or a blood thinner.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to take your medication as directed to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.

If you have pain in your limbs, a doctor may also prescribe medication such as cilostazol (Pletal) or pentoxifylline (Trental). These medications can help your blood flow more easily, which can reduce pain.

Increasing your activity level can improve your symptoms of PAD and help you feel better.

Regular physical activity helps stabilize blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This reduces the amount of plaque in your arteries and improves blood circulation and blood flow.

A doctor may recommend treatment in a rehabilitation center where you’ll exercise under the guidance of a healthcare professional. This might include walking on a treadmill or performing exercises that specifically work your legs and arms.

You can also start your own exercise routine with activities like regular walking, biking, and swimming.

Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Start slowly and gradually build up to this goal.

Smoking constricts your blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure. It can also increase your risk of complications like heart attack or stroke and can cause damage to the walls of the blood vessels.

Quitting smoking not only improves your overall health, but it can also restore blood flow and can slow the progression of PAD.

To quit smoking, explore different nicotine replacement options to curb your cravings, such as gums, sprays, or patches.

In addition, some medications can help you successfully quit. Consult a doctor to explore your options.

Diet also plays a big role in slowing the progression of PAD.

Eating foods high in fat or sodium can increase your cholesterol levels and drive high blood pressure. These changes lead to increases in plaque production in your arteries.

Incorporate more healthy foods into your diet, such as:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • low sodium canned vegetables
  • whole-wheat grains
  • omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish
  • lean proteins
  • low fat or fat-free dairy

Try to reduce your intake of foods that increase cholesterol and blood fat levels, including foods high in fat or sodium. Some examples of foods to limit or avoid include:

  • chips
  • donuts
  • fried foods
  • refined carbohydrates
  • processed meats
  • convenience meals
  • fast food

If left untreated, PAD can lead to tissue death and possible amputation. Because of this, it’s important to manage diabetes and keep your feet in good condition.

If you have PAD and diabetes, it may take longer for injuries on your feet or legs to heal. As a result, you may be at an increased risk for infection.

Follow these steps to keep your feet healthy:

  • wash your feet daily
  • apply moisturizer to cracked skin
  • wear thick socks to prevent injuries
  • apply topical antibiotic cream to cuts
  • inspect your feet for wounds or ulcers

See a doctor if a sore on your foot doesn’t heal or worsens.

In severe cases of PAD, medication and lifestyle changes may not improve your condition. If so, a doctor may recommend surgery to help restore proper blood flow to a blocked artery.

Procedures can include angioplasty with a balloon or a stent to open up an artery and keep it open.

A doctor may also need to perform bypass surgery. This involves removing a blood vessel from another part of your body and using it to create a graft. This allows blood to flow around a blocked artery, like creating a detour.

A doctor can also inject medication into a blocked artery to break up a blood clot and restore blood flow.

Early PAD doesn’t always have symptoms, and symptoms that do appear can often be subtle.

If you have risk factors for this condition and develop muscle pain, weakness in limbs, or leg cramps, see a doctor.

PAD can progress and lead to serious complications, so early treatment is important to improve your overall health.