Management of high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension are important in controlling PAD. Making the commitment to stop smoking is also important.

Specific lifestyle changes will be determined by which risk factors you have for PAD. You may be instructed in exercises to improve blood flow in your legs. Under a doctor’s supervision, you can gradually increase your walking.

Reduced circulation means greater risk of infection. Also, regular inspection of your feet will help prevent serious complications and amputation.

General Guidelines

  • Quit smoking.
  • Talk with your doctor about eating a more healthful diet.
  • Make sure you know whether you have elevated cholesterol, and if you do, learn how to eat healthfully to control this risk factor. Also, talk to your doctor about whether you should be taking a cholesterol-lowering medication.
  • Exercise regularly. Under your doctor’s supervision, gradually increase your walking.
  • Foot Care
    • Regularly examine your feet for injuries, ingrown toenails, or cuts.
    • Care for any injuries of the feet meticulously with regular cleansing, antiseptic (povidone iodine), and dressings.
    • Avoid dry skin by using moisturizing creams.
    • Wear shoes that breathe but do not expose the toes (as sandals do).
    • Avoid shoe chafing.
    • Use your bed sheets to make a "tent" or canopy around your feet. This will improve circulation while you sleep.
    • See a podiatrist for toe or toenail problems, and tell him or her that you have PAD.

Managing Claudication

Even if the major arteries are hardened and narrowed, your body can build "collateral circulation," or a network of new small blood vessels that keep tissues alive. These blood vessels grow in response to demand; talk with your doctor about starting a walking program. You should only exercise under your doctor's supervision.

When to Contact Your Doctor

You need regular check-ups to assess the progress of your vascular disease.

Be alert for:

  • Wounds that get infected
  • Infections that don't heal
  • Worsening claudication
  • Sudden worsening of symptoms, particularly pain at rest