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Treating P.A.D.

A Illustration showing the difference between a normal artery and atherosclerotic artery.

As plaque builds up, a normal artery (A) becomes partially blocked (B), and blood flow is diminished.
Illustration courtesy of NHLBI

Treatment for P.A.D. is designed to reduce a patient's symptoms, prevent complications and improve quality of life. It may include lifestyle changes, medicines, or surgery.

Lifestyle Changes

P.A.D. treatment often includes making long-lasting lifestyle changes. If you have P.A.D., or are aiming to lower your risk, your health care provider may prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Quit smoking. Don't smoke, and if you do, quit. Consult with your health care provider to develop an effective cessation plan and stick to it.
  • Lower your numbers. Work with your health care provider to correct any high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Be sure to include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Get moving. Make a commitment to be more physically active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
  • Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, work with your health care provider to develop a supervised weight loss plan.

P.A.D. Glossary

  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
    A simple test that can be used to diagnose P.A.D. The ABI compares blood pressure in the ankle with blood pressure in the arm to see how well blood is flowing.
  • Atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis)
    The buildup of plaque on the artery walls, also referred to as hardening of the arteries.
  • Critical limb ischemia (CLI)
    When blood flow is completely or mostly blocked to one or both legs in the advanced stages of P.A.D.
  • Intermittent claudication (klaw-de-KA-shen)
    Cramping pain and weakness in the legs and especially the calves on walking that disappears after rest and is usually associated with inadequate blood supply to the muscles.


In addition to lifestyle changes, your health care provider may prescribe one or more medications. These medications are used to:

  • Lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treat diabetes;
  • Prevent the formation of blood clots that could cause a heart attack or stroke; and
  • Help reduce leg pain while walking or climbing stairs.

Surgeries or Special Procedures

If the blood flow in one of your limbs is completely or almost completely blocked, you may benefit from having a procedure or surgery in addition to medications and lifestyle changes. Procedures such as angioplasty and bypass graft surgery will not cure P.A.D., but they can improve the blood circulation to your legs and your ability to walk.

Clinical Trials for P.A.D.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is currently recruiting for several clinical trials, including ones on reducing P.A.D. risk factors, improving limb function for people with P.A.D., and catheter-based treatments of arterial disease, among others. For more information, visit Search for P.A.D. and clinical trials.

Read More "Could Peripheral Arterial Disease Be Your Problem?" Articles
It Hurts When I Walk! / Peripheral Arterial Disease Can Be a Killer / Treating P.A.D. / Other Causes of Leg Pain / Prevent P.A.D.: Know Your Numbers / Your P.A.D. Checklist

Summer 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 3 Pages 20