Avoid Peripheral Arterial Disease With Light Exercise


Avoiding peripheral arterial disease (PAD) may be as easy as taking a walk every day, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

Light exercise, such as a daily half-hour stroll, has long been known to help protect the heart, but also helps ward off PAD, fatty deposits that limit blood flow to the extremities, usually the legs, and raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the Peripheral Arterial Disease Coalition, PAD affects between 8 million and 13 million Americans, especially those over the age of 50. Although the disease sometimes shows no symptoms, it often causes leg cramps and pain.

Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center looked at 1,381 patients who were at high risk for atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty material collects on arterial walls and hardens, forming calcium deposits. About 30% of those studied said they were inactive throughout most of their lives. The scientists found that they were nearly twice as likely to have PAD as active ones.

But once a sedentary person got off the couch and exercised even a little, their risk for PAD went down, the researchers said, thanks to improved circulation and reduced "age-related arterial stiffness," among other reasons.

However, it's important to begin an exercise program before PAD sets in and pain limits activity, the researchers noted.

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This makes sense to me. My mother, who is 99 and just had a hip repair with full anaesthetic and is recovering well, is an avid walker and has been for years and years. When she gets stressed her blood pressure can shoot up. She is on blood pressure meds, but she has had no strokes and her heart and lungs are very healthy. Even when in a hotel room she will walk 2000 steps. On the other hand our family is long lived and the women tend to live into their 90s, so there is a genetic component, but she is outliving them all. I think this is due to the regular exercise she gets - and maybe a little stubbornness on her part. :) I am 73 and not as active regularly as she for several reasons though I have walked a lot over the years. I choose a 2 story house to live in so that I have to walk stairs. My BP is good and I am not on bp meds.