Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects the blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. PAD is usually the result of narrowed or clogged arteries that in turn poorly transport blood to the farthest points in the body such as the arms and legs. This narrowing of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, is the most common cause of PAD. Atherosclerosis is often the result of an unbalanced diet, as eating certain foods increases the risk for atherosclerosis.
In other words, what you eat can cause peripheral arterial disease.
Peripheral arterial disease, also known as peripheral artery disease, is a common problem that affects eight to 12 million people in the United States. Peripheral artery disease can develop at any age, but it is more common among individuals above the age of 50. While PAD affects men and women equally, diabetic women suffer worse outcomes from PAD compared with diabetic men.
Cholesterol and scar tissue can build up on the inside of blood vessels. With time, fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue, and other substances in the blood can collect inside arteries and turn into plaque. PAD develops when plaque blocks the arteries in a way that prevents blood from flowing through the vessel. In some cases, PAD can develop when blood clots lodge in arteries and clog blood flow. Peripheral arterial disease typically forms in arteries of the legs, but may develop in other arteries of the body.
Signs and symptoms develop when arteries clog so severely that they cannot deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to tissues, including nerves. One of the main symptoms of PAD is leg pain that begins when you walk or exercise and subsides when you rest. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling, and coldness in the lower legs. Sores, known as ulcers, may develop on the lower legs and feet in some advanced cases of PAD.
Additionally, certain factors including smoking, age, and other health conditions can increase the development of plaque and blood clots that lead to peripheral arterial disease.
While you cannot control some risk factors such as age, you can control many of the others. You can quit smoking and you can improve your diet, for example.
Eating the right foods can reduce your risk for PAD by decreasing the amount of blood cholesterol and fat that could turn into arterial plaque in the future. Reducing your intake of dietary and saturated fat, like that found in red meat, to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories prevents excess fat from entering your bloodstream. Restricting your salt intake to about 6 grams of sodium each day can reduce your blood pressure. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber can reduce your blood cholesterol as well.
Eating certain diets can reduce the risk for PAD. A Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grain, can help. The DASH diet limits salt, fat, and alcohol intake. A low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can also reduce your risk for peripheral arterial disease.
For more information on reducing your risk or finding resources for dealing with PAD, make an appointment with Georgia Vascular Institute today by calling 770-506-4007. We have several convenient locations in the metro Atlanta area including Atlanta, Forest Park, Stockbridge, and Jonesboro.