In fact, just getting a stent won’t help you as much as a regular, supervised exercise program. In a study in Dallas, researchers tracked nearly 1,000 patients with peripheral artery disease symptoms in their legs for about a year. Some patients only got stents, others only participated in a supervised exercise program, and still others did both. It turns out that exercise only beat stenting alone, but the combination was the best: at the end of the study, patients who received both kinds of peripheral artery disease treatment could go the furthest on a treadmill. They were also least likely to have had another surgery or amputation.
That’s because exercise lowers blood pressure and improves the flow of blood. When the prestigious Cochrane group reviewed 30 trials of studies of exercise and PAD, the reviewers added to the chorus that exercise was beneficial. The natural response to pain is avoidance. So it’s understandable that you’ll want to cut back on any movement that triggers pain. However, you need strategies to improve your blood flow.
Let’s say you choose to use a treadmill at a gym. When the pain hits you can stop, and wait until you’re more comfortable before you start again. You can also switch to a bike and then return to the treadmill. Keep pushing your heart rate up, to help your heart pump blood to the area that hurts. Whenever you can’t bear weight on your legs, try swimming or cycling.
As you go through your day, choose to take the stairs rather than escalators or elevators. You can stop and rest when the pain hits.
Quit smoking, and follow your doctor’s advice on a heart-healthy diet. You may also be prescribed the medications pentoxifylline (Trental) and cilostazol (Pletal). You’ll hear advice to take ginkgo biloba, but the Cochrane group has so far concluded that practice it isn’t backed by enough science as a peripheral artery disease treatment. There is early evidence that L-carnitine tablets can enhance the benefits of cilostazol. You’ll hear claims for a long list of treatments. Talk to your doctor, and don’t spend large sums on unproven remedies.
March 02, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN