Category: PAD

Why did my feet turn darker than the rest of my skin?

Have you noticed the skin on your feet turn darker than other areas of your skin? Are you concerned that this may be a cause for concern? Well, if you are–you’re right! Darkening skin in your feet can be a sign of several different vein conditions. And all of them should be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Why Feet Turn Darker Changes in skin color, when feet turn darker, is a warning for vein disease

For light skinned individuals, several things can cause your feet to turn darker. In fact, feet that are darker than the rest of your skin can be a side effect of varicose veins. When you have varicose veins (incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly) blood pools in your legs. And that leads to swelling–both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. In some instances, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells carry some red pigment that, over time, may turn black in color. When these cells end up in your feet, they may contribute to the darker skin color.

While an abundance of red blood cells may cause your feet to change color, lack of blood flow may also affect the appearance of your feet. As plaque builds up in our bodies due to fat and cholesterol, a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Diesease (PAD) may set in. PAD occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries, narrowing them significantly and thus affecting blood flow throughout your body. With PAD, less oxygen-rich blood may reach your feet. In contrast to skin darkening related to varicose veins, color changes related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, your dark feet are likely to feel cold or even numb.

Smoking and Changes in Skin Color

While internal factors can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your feet, it’s also important to examine problems in your own habits. Smokers especially may notice marked changes in their skin color:

  1. Chemicals in cigarettes speed up the aging process, often leaving smokers with uneven skin tone.
  2. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen and blood flow to your extremities. This makes smoking especially dangerous for people with vein conditions that already affect blood flow.
  3. Smokers’ wounds take longer to heal. If you smoke, have diabetes and notice your feet turning black, you may be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even noticed.

    Cancer, Eczema and Other Potential Culprits

    While all these factors are less common, they could also change the color of your feet. Eczema, when it manifests on your feet can change the color of your skin tone. Another condition called venous eczema, or stasis dermatitis, can also change the color of your feet or legs.  With this inflammatory skin condition, your legs, ankles and feet may swell or show signs of inflammation. Aside from changing color, affected skin can feel dry, irritated and itchy.

    Stasis dermatitis may develop with chronic venous insufficiency, or circulatory problems. But it’s not the only health concern that can change your leg color. Because Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in lymph and blood vessels, can also make the skin on your feet appear darker due to the lesions that characterize this condition.

Houston Specialists Treating Feet That Turn Darker

Regardless of the reason for the change, when the skin on your feet turns dramatically darker, it should be cause for more than just cosmetic concern. All of the things that change the color of the feet will need medical attention, so this is one symptom you should never dismiss or ignore.

Now, when you come in for your vein consultation, your specialist will give you treatment options. You’ve got many choices when you want to treat varicose veins. But one choice, sclerotherapy, probably won’t be an option. You see, sclerotherapy is mostly a cosmetic treatment.

Of course, this is a great option if all you want is younger looking legs. It’s very effective when you’re dealing with spider veins, but not when you have varicose veins. And, if your feet turn darker, your disease is likely more serious. So you’ll need greater interventions to improve your health, and your leg and foot appearance.

Ready to make a big step towards reversing the skin damage of varicose veins? Come into our office right away. We’ll conduct a thorough examination and figure out your next best course of action.

Sources: Flux Magazine

Stem Cells for Veins May Cure Vein Disease

Could stem cells for veins be the next big innovation in vein disease? Well, the world of vein treatments is constantly evolving, and it seems like every week there’s an exciting new discovery! Recently, Nature magazine revealed a new one: they’ve identified the stem cells responsible for growing new blood vessels in embryos. Why is that so exciting? If the cells can be studied and applied to adults, scientists could also grow healthy new blood vessels. And those vessels could repair or replace old, damaged ones.

New Veins Could Transform Circulatory Treatments

Vein disease sufferers will obviously benefit from newly-grown veins. But so will other people. In fact, this development would improve treatments for heart disease. It could also help manage circulatory conditions like peripheral arterial disease. That’s a crucial development, since untreated PAD can lead to amputation.

Until now, scientists thought that dividing endothelial cells created embryo blood vessels. But this new research proves that the opposite is true. In short, stems cells in the blood create and grow endothelial cells.

Of course,  we can’t yet grow new blood vessels. So we can’t yet apply this discovery to help treat vein disease. In order for that to happen, researchers will have to determine whether the stem cells can grow endothelial cells throughout life. Because there’s a chance this only happens during the embryo stage of development.

Moving Forward with Stem Cells for Veins

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the methods necessary to track down these tiny stem cells in fully grown humans. And, even once those methods are developed, scientists will need to determine if the endothelial cells that come from these stem cells have their own functions. They will also need to figure out the best way to apply them for use in regenerative medicine.

Even with all the work that’s left to be done, the Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Metin Avkiran, is positive about the discovery. He says, “Using stem cells to treat patients with heart and circulatory disease has huge potential. But taking positive findings from the lab to patients has often been very challenging. These scientists have looked at how blood vessels develop in the embryo, and their findings have shed important new light on our understanding of the origin of growing blood vessels. Getting these fundamentals right is essential for finding stem cell treatments that will work in patients. These findings could pave the way to new discoveries in regenerative medicine and allow scientists in the future to grow new blood vessels and repair those that are damaged in many forms of heart and circulatory disease.”

In the meantime, managing vein disease can help prevent serious complications. Ready to get help for varicose veins, poor circulation or other vein health concerns? Schedule an immediate appointment with our Houston area vein specialists!

Sources: University College LondonNature Magazine

Here’s What you Need to Know about Blood Clots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat blood clots pose to your health. When we treat patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins of your legs, we face a medical emergency. That’s because, if a blood clot breaks free and travels to other parts of your body—especially to your lungs—it can threaten your life.

But, many people want to know: why do I get blood clots? And, what are they exactly? Is there anything I can do to prevent them? So, in this post, we will try to answer all of those questions. Just keep reading to learn more.

Why do blood clots form? stages of PAD

When things are working properly, your blood flows freely through your body, delivering oxygen to your organs and flushing out the waste products created by your body’s metabolic processes. But, if you get a cut, scrape or injury, blood in your arteries and veins (veins return blood from the body to the heart; arteries transport blood away from your heart) will clot to block your blood vessels and stop you from bleeding out.

But, when your arteries or veins get blocked when you aren’t injured, you need medical intervention. Otherwise, you can face complications such as strokes, heart attacks, organ damage and even limb loss. In certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by travelling to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), interfering with your ability to breathe.

Blood clots form in blood vessels—either your deep veins or your arteries. Typically, they form after your blood vessels get damaged, triggering a reaction in your body. This reaction involves a mix of platelets and clotting factor proteins.

How Do Blood Clots Cause Health Problems?

As we mentioned, problematic blood clots form when the connection between platelets and clotting factor proteins goes awry. Platelets are objects in your blood that group together and stick to the walls of your blood vessels when needed.

Clotting factors are proteins in the blood that trigger a reaction to makes platelets and red blood cells stick together. Typically, other proteins in your body make that reaction stop, so your clot only reaches the size needed to prevent excess bleeding.  But when damage to your blood vessels impacts that reaction, clots may grow unchecked, leaving you at risk for clotting conditions like DVT.

Arterial clots and DVT

We can’t always predict who will be affected by blood clots, or when those clots will form. But we do know certain factors that can increase your risk for clots:

  • Prolonged immobility, as with long airplane flights
  • Having thick blood (hypercoagulability.) Often, you only discover your blood is thick after developing a clood clot. But in some cases, hypercoagulability causes chest pain, dizziness, slurred speech and shortness of breath. Usually, this condition is a symptom of other diseases, including vascular diseases suches as polycythemia.
  •  Arm or leg surgery
  • Casting a broken bone
  • Trauma
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Age
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke or heart disease.

Remember, PAD develops when you have atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, a type of arteriosclerosis, is a condition where plaque builds up in your arteries. It specifically means that plaque built up on the inner most wall of your artery. Once that happens, your arteries narrow and ‘harden.’ In turn, this reduces blood flow to certain parts of your body. And it also increases your risk of blood getting ‘stuck,’ and forming clots.

New research has revealed an additional risk factor for blood clots, and it’s one that you unfortunately can’t control. In fact, your blood type can contribute to that risk, according to a study published in the Journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 

The research, which began in 2017, found that people with types A or B blood had a combined 8% higher risk of heart attack, and a 10% increased risk of heart failure, as compared to people with type O blood. So, knowing your blood type could help you understand your risk for developing a blood clot.

 

Diagnosing and Treating Blood Clots

The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent their formation. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying mobile even on long trips, and using compression therapy can all help protect you from DVT. Even if you develop a DVT, compression therapy—especially within 24 hours of the clot’s formation—can help manage your risk of further complications.

So, as with many other vein and arterial conditions, timeliness is key when it comes to treating blood clots. The sooner you see a vein specialist, the better the outcome you will likely enjoy. So if you have any symptoms of or risks for blood clots, schedule an appointment with your Houston vein specialists today!

 

Sources: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology JournalAmerican Heart Association

 

PAD Risk for Women and African Americans

Today, we need to talk about PAD risk for women. And for African Americans. Because, both groups may be more vulnerable. After all, PAD (peripheral arterial disease) is a thickening of the arteries that affects blood flow. It’s a form of cardiovascular disease with symptoms such as painful leg cramps. And those cramps mostly show up when walking or exercising, but get better with risk.

Now, we don’t know why, but women and African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be affected by PAD. That’s the case even for women and Black people without other heart issues. Regardless of age. Now, while this statistic is scary on its own, we also have to share warnings about things that further increase the PAD risk for women and African Americans.

PAD Risk for Women

Not every woman has the same PAD risk. Therefore, you have to look at other factors to figure out your own risk for PAD. Women who are over 60, or who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, have higher PAD risk. But, studies show that PAD risks for women without these factors are almost double that for men without heart disease.

And that’s not all. In a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, we learned other concerns about the PAD risk for women. As it turns out, women get diagnosed with PAD later than men. Then, after their PAD diagnosis, women’s health deteriorates faster than men’s. In particular, women with PAD lose their ability to walk at a faster rate than men do. Which is why women should start early screening for PAD to help prevent these concerns. As should African Americans, who have additional worries when it comes to their PAD risk.

BMI and PAD

Regardless of your race or gender, your body mass index has an impact on your PAD risk. In a recent study, researchers found a u-shaped relationship between BMI and PAD risk. They discovered that people with BMIs below 25.7 saw a 27% decrease in risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease. And, while there wasn’t a concrete number, people with a BMI level above 25.7 had a significant disease risk increase. Want to know your BMI and relative PAD risk? Start with this resource from the National Institutes of Health.

Smoking and PAD Risks

According to a different study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, smoking is a known risk factor for PAD. But it increases PAD risk for African Americans more than for other at risk groups. In this study, researchers followed 5300 participants between the ages of 21 and 84. Of those participants, 13% were current smokers and 19% were former smokers.

Researchers found that current smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to have PAD in their lower extremities. They were also eight times as likely to have calcium buildups in the aorta. And how much you smoked matters too: the more cigarettes a participant had smoked each day, the worse off their arterial health.

In the wake of this study, Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, says: “The findings from this study give us strong evidence of the specific debilitating and life-threatening risks African American smokers face, especially the more they smoke. This type of research can be useful in the development of clear messages targeted to our African American population to underscore the real physical costs of tobacco product use.”

Worried about your risk for PAD? If you are in a vulnerable population, or have any type of heart disease, preventative screening is important. So schedule an appointment with our Houston vein specialists right away. We can help determine your PAD risk level, and start you on preventative care or treatments.

Sources: Journal of the American Heart Association

Check Out What Happens to Your PAD Risk as you Age

So many things affect your PAD risk. Now, did you know that approximately one in five people over the age of 65 has peripheral arterial disease (PAD)? If that seems to you like a pretty high percentage, you’re right. And there’s a reason for that: as you get older, your risk for PAD increases dramatically. Here’s why.

What is PAD?

PAD is a condition you develop when plaque builds up in your arteries. What is plaque? It’s a substance in your blood that’s made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances. When it sticks to the walls of your arteries, they ‘harden’—that’s called atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis interferes with your blood’s ability to flow.

When it’s the blood flow to your legs that’s impacted by plaque, we call that condition PAD. And PAD can lead to leg pain and numbness. The hair on your legs may fall out; your skin color may change. You may find that cuts and scrapes take longer to heal; some wounds will no longer heal on their own when you have PAD.

But PAD symptoms aren’t just experienced in your legs. When you have PAD, your risk of heart attack, blood clots and stroke also increases. So does your chances of losing a limb to amputation.

Why Does PAD Develop? stages of PAD

While the exact cause of this condition isn’t know, it seems to begin when the inner layers of your arteries get damaged: this damage could be the result of diet that’s high in fat and cholesterol; a lifestyle that includes smoking; diabetes; and/or high blood pressure. It seems that plaque builds up as your arteries begin to heal.

Unfortunately, PAD can be hard to diagnose. That’s because many people with this condition don’t show any symptoms. Or, they experience symptoms like leg pain, numbness, and cramping, but confuse these problems for normal signs of aging, or for signs of other medical problems. That’s why it’s important to know all the PAD symptoms, which include: sores that don’t heal well, bluish skin color, skin that’s cold to the touch; problems with toenail growth; and, in men, erectile dysfunction.

Other Factors That Increase Risk

A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health now shows that migraines are a PAD risk factor. While they aren’t sure why, it seems that migraine sufferers and PAD patients both have vascular abnormalities. For that reason, suffering from regular migraines could be considered an early PAD symptom. And, since PAD is often silent until damage is extensive, it’s worth scheduling a diagnostic ultrasound if migraines are a regular problem from you.

Interestingly, the study found additional PAD risk factors. It noted that age, smoking, diabetes and hypertension all increase your risk for PAD. But it also added chronic kidney disease and asthma to the list of conditions that increase your PAD risk. Which means that, if you have any of these conditions, it’s worth checking in with a PAD specialist.

That’s also true if your BMI is on the higher side of optimal. Why is that the case? A study in the International Journal of General Medicine recently discovered that having a BMI below 25 decreased your PAD risk by 27%. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for those with a BMI that’s higher than 25. In those cases, PAD risk was substantially higher. Meaning you should regularly check your arterial flow if your Body Mass Index is elevated. (Check yours here!)

How is PAD Diagnosed?

If your vein specialist suspects you have PAD, you may need one or more of the following tests:

  • An ankle-brachial index (ABI), which determines your blood flow by comparing the blood pressure in your ankle to the pressure in your arm.
  • A Doppler ultrasound, which can detect blood vessel blockages with sound waves
  • A treadmill test, to detect whether leg cramps are associated with activity, and whether they resolve with rest

You may also need additional blood tests to check for related conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol.

Treating PAD

If you are diagnosed with PAD early on, you may be able to control your symptoms with a series of lifestyle changes. At our Houston area vein clinics, we also help PAD patients by using minimally invasive procedures. Some of the treatment options we offer include Angioplasty, Stenting, and Atherectomy—the procedure we recommend for you will depend on the location of your blockages and the progression of your disease.

But want to know what they all have in common? These methods will almost always spare you from having major, open surgeries. Because of that fact, your recovery period will be drastically reduced. And you will likely be discharged from hospital on the same day of your procedure.

Before we come up with your treatment plan, however, we need to conduct diagnostic exams. And, in order to do that, we need to see you in the office. So, if you suspect PAD may be behind your leg cramps, or if you have any other PAD symptoms, schedule a consultation right away.

 

Sources: Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Clinical Interventions in Aging

Here are 4 Foods and 1 Drink That Can Help PAD

Looking for help for PAD? Well, guess what? Researchers have discovered that drinking hot cocoa could help improve your gait if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD.) And that’s not all: science also suggests that Vitamin K2 can lower your risk for developing PAD, or other types of coronary disease. Plus, water-based exercises can help restore your mobility. Often as effectively as gym-based workouts, which could be painful when you’re dealing with this health concern.

You see, PAD is a serious condition that sets in when athelosclerosis (hardened arteries) limit blood flow to your lower limbs. And one of the worst PAD symptoms is sudden pain with walking, so we’re excited about preventing PAD, but we’re also excited about this tasty discovery regarding symptom relief! Let’s take a closer look.

Flavanols Offer Help for PAD cocoa offers help for pad

First things first: let’s clear up our cocoa discussion. Cocoa is rich in flavonols, which is why it can help PAD patients. But not all cocoa is created equally. As study author Mary McGrae McDermott explains, “A large amount of chocolate available without a prescription is alkalized, which improves taste [but destroys] the beneficial cocoa flavanols that have therapeutic effects.”

What does that mean? You need powder with more than 85% cocoa content to get health benefits. Simply grabbing some Nesquick at the super market just won’t cut it—even though your cocoa will probably taste pretty great.

Still, the right kind of cocoa has lots of healing properties. According to the study, cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin, “have therapeutic properties that can improve performance when walking in people with PAD.” More specifically, cocoa can help target therapy directly to your legs (limb perfusion) and improve cell and muscle regeneration in your legs. Finally, McDermott notes, previous studies have also discovered that blood flow and muscle health improve with cocoa consumption.

Now we know why cocoa is such a valuable ingredient, let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage cocoa to improve your PAD symptoms.

How Cocoa Fights PAD

The purpose of this study was to see if cocoa could help PAD patients walk longer distances before experiencing leg pain. And, happily, it did! To reach their findings, McDermott’s team studied 44 patients aged 60 and older. Every day, participants drank either cocoa or a placebo drink. By the end of the study period, cocoa drinkers found it much easier to walk for six minutes, as compared to their placebo-drinking counterparts. People who drank three cups a day saw the best results.

In presenting her findings, McDermott explained, “Our study showed better health in the blood flow to the legs, improvements in the 6-minute walking distance and also improved the health of the calf skeletal muscle. Since people with PAD have difficulty walking due to blood flow problems, we think that this particular therapy can be particularly beneficial.”

While these findings are certainly exciting—for our taste buds and our symptom management—don’t start planning to ditch your meds. As mentioned, you’d have to have the exact cocoa makeup included in the study. Plus, while cocoa can help with symptom relief, it’s unlikely to clear up your underlying disease trigger. So, by all means, talk to your doctor about including cocoa in your diet. And take a look at the findings about Vitamin K1 and PAD!

Vitamins and PAD Risk

According to long-term studies in Atherosclerosis, daily vitamin K2 can reduce your PAD risk if you have hypertension or diabetes.

After following over 36,000 men and women for just over 12 years, researchers 489 participants developed PAD. But they found that taking vitamin K2 reduced that PAD risk. All the people benefited from the supplement. But the risk reduction was strongest for those with hypertension, and strongest for those with diabetes.

Based on their discovery, the study authors can recommend daily vitamin k2 supplements. Great sources of vitamin k2 include dairy products, fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut, and some animal products.

Of course, if you already have peripheral arterial disease, you may notice symptoms such as leg cramps while you walk. In which case, you’ll want to read more about water based workouts that offer help for PAD.

Adding Spinach to the Mix  spinach lowers PAD risk

Want to really kick PAD to the curb? A brand new study reveals that eating one cup of spinach a day lowers your PAD risk by 26%! This power green helps in several ways. But their most important job seems to be lowering blood pressure.

As a result, just a few leaves a day also reduces stiffness in your arteries. (Which is likely why it helps lower PAD risk.) And it also means you’re less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. All of which is great news, as far as we’re concerned!

Fighting PAD Symptoms in the Water

According to researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, water based exercises can be an effective part of a PAD rehab program. Plus, these workouts could offer protective cardiovascular health benefits. Because, according to lead author Markos Klonizakis, getting four water workouts a week offered the same protective heart and arterial benefits as four weekly workouts in the gym.

Now, this news is especially important for older adults. Because water workouts are lower impact. Which means they’re easier to do, even if you already deal with joint or PAD pain.

Of course, all of these dietary and lifestyle changes can offer help for PAD. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on any of your other PAD medications. And if you’re worried about your risk, be sure to explore PAD treatment options with your Houston area vein specialists. If you come in to see us, real relief could be available, and sooner than you think.

Sources: Atherosclerosis, Journal of Circulation Research, Nutraingredients.com, British Medical Journal 

Here’s What Smoking Does to Arteries

Ever wonder what smoking does to arteries? Even though May 31 is World No Tobacco Day, our Houston vein specialists celebrate that one every day. Why? The day is meant to raise awareness of the terrible impact tobacco has on your health. Now, we likely all know that smoking impacts your lungs and raises your risk for many types of cancer. But did you also know that smoking harms your blood health? That is, unfortunately, the case, and it does so by limiting blood flow through your arteries and veins in two main ways.

Smoking Limits Blood Flow

Nicotine, the addictive chemical contained in traditional and e-cigarettes, causes your blood vessels to narrow. This narrowing limits the amount of blood vessels can carry and, over time, it causes them to become more rigid, losing flexibility. This stiffening of the vessels makes your heart work harder, in turn raising your blood pressure.

Tobacco use of any kind is also a strong risk factor for developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD). While plaque typically develops because of an unhealthy diet, the chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the inner cell layer of our blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to stick to them.

Initial PAD Warning Signs

When plaque is building up to dangerous levels, you will likely first experience leg symptoms. They may start to hurt for no apparent reason, especially while you’re walking. Why? As you walk, your body needs increased blood flow; if limitations in your arteries slow or stop that blood flow, you will experience pain. While it can be tempting to brush off this kind of pain as typical exercise related cramps, that’s a bad idea, especially if you smoke. Any kind of leg pain is a symptom worth discussing with your doctor.

Another sign of developing PAD? Feeling a heaviness in your chest while you walk up the stairs. Of course, plenty of people feel winded when climbing multiple flights of stairs, but if you start to have problems after just a few steps, you should consider this a troubling warning sign.

If you have PAD, you may also experience other symptoms. Your wounds may heal slowly, because injuries need oxygen to heal, but narrowed or blocked arteries make it hard for healing oxygen to reach those wounds.

A change in toe color could also occur, since your blood is having a tough time reaching those lower extremities. As a result, they may start to lose some color, taking on a blue-ish tinge.

Finally, you may notice a loss of leg hair: Your hair follicles are nourished by blood flow; they die without a proper supply, causing your hair to fall out. Because of this, loss of hair (especially below the knees) is an easy way to spot PAD.

PAD: What Smoking Does to Arteries

Many physicians consider smoking to be the biggest PAD risk factor. Why is that? Chemicals in tobacco interfere with how blood cells function. That can affect your heart as well. And one of the first ways it does so? Making it easier for plaque to build up in your arteries. As such, about 90% of PAD patients smoked in their past.

The picture gets worse when you look at the general population. Smokers risk of developing or worsening their case of PAD is about four times higher than that of non-smokers. But don’t panic yet: by quitting smoking, you can greatly reduce your risk of PAD, heart attack, stroke and/or aneurysm (burst blood clot). Snubbing out this bad habit will also have positive effects in a number of different ways in regards to your overall health, so there is no reason not to quit!

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about any of the warning signs we’ve discussed, and start developing a plan to quit. Not ready to get into the doctor’s office? Check out the resources at Smokefree.gov, and remember e-cigarettes and cigarette alternatives like Juul are equally dangerous, thanks to the nicotine they all contain!

Need more help managing the effects of smoking on your arteries? We’re here to help. Just reach out to our specialists for an appointment. With proper care, we can help reverse the effects of what smoking does to arteries in your body.

Sources: Cleveland Clinic

That Pain in Your Legs? It Could Mean a Blood Flow Problem

So many people are quick to brush off a little pain in your legs. But that tendency is the reason so many people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) have delayed or missed diagnoses.  You see, PAD is a condition that develops slowly and with few symptoms. Inside your body, your blood vessels are slowly narrowing due to atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits that keeps enough blood and oxygen from getting to your legs. And it’s that lack of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood which can make your legs feel uncomfortable and crampy. Which in turn is why you should never ignore leg pain that appears for no apparent reason.

Now you know why ignoring leg pain can be so dangerous to your health. Next, let’s take a closer look at ways you can increase the flow of blood to your lower extremities.

Reduce Pain in Legs with Improved Blood Flow

If you want to avoid PAD, or reduce existing symptoms, your best bet is to keep your arteries and blood vessels clear of blockages. You also need to work on improving your blood circulation.

The first step in this process? Get moving! Physical activity encourages blood flow. Plus, it helps you maintain a healthy weight, which can also help your body provide sufficient blood to your extremities.

Still, moving more isn’t enough. Diet is also a crucial part of preventing atherosclerosis, the “hardening of the arteries” that causes PAD. That’s because, through a healthy diet, many individuals may be able to lower their cholesterol levels. And high cholesterol is linked to the build-up of plaque in your arteries. (Keep in mind that some people may require medication to lower cholesterol levels. Discuss all changes to your diet with your healthcare provider.)

How important is your diet to your PAD risk? Well, according to recent research, eating legumes, dietary fiber, and vegetable protein significantly lowers your PAD risk. At the same time, eating all kinds of red meats, processed meats, and/or sugary soft drinks upped your risk by a lot.

So, what does that mean for you? Regardless of whether or not you also need medication, people with PAD should focus on proper nutrition. As it turns out, many of the foods you eat can actually help improve your blood flow and boost the health of your veins and arteries.

Foods That Boost Blood Flow

If you’re worried about blood flow, take a peek at your diet. Try adding beets and beetroot juice–their nitrate content converts into nitric oxide, which improves blood pressure and blood flow. Onions and garlic are also great choices because they help relax your blood vessels. Want a protein option? Fatty fish, rich in omega-3s, boosts blood flow by preventing blockages. 

Spices are another easy way to improve your flow: both turmeric and cayenne are helpful. Rounding out the diet powerhouse? Include pomegranate, oats, beans, and wholegrains. Add nuts, eggplants, apples, berries and citrus fruit, too. Before you know it, that blood will be flowing in tip-top shape!

Even if you don’t have PAD, adding these foods to your diet and increasing your weekly movement can help prevent problems. But, if your legs hurt; or if you notice changes like discolored legs or loss of hair on your legs, you may already have PAD. If that’s the case, don’t delay: make an appointment to see our Houston area PAD specialists right away. Early intervention can prevent further complications, including heart attacks and strokes!

 

Got Leg Pain? It Could Be PAD

If you have unexplained leg pain, especially after you walk or exercise, you could be one of the eight to ten million people in the United States who suffer from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). This condition is often difficult to diagnose, leaving many sufferers untreated, which is a serious problem due to the danger that it can pose.

PAD symptomsWhat is PAD?

Peripheral Artery Disease is caused by a narrowing of the peripheral arteries. While it most commonly affects the legs, it can also be found in the stomach, arms, and even your head. Arteries begin to narrow when plaque, which is made up of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances, builds on the walls of the artery. The disease restricts the amount of blood flow and raises blood pressure. In severe cases, a blood clot can form and completely stop your blood flow, which can result in a stroke or heart attack.

Why is that the case? Your circulatory problems prevent blood from moving through your body as it should. At the early stages, this may cause PAD leg pain, as your lower limbs struggle to get enough oxygen-rich blood. Later on, that can translate to heart attacks if blood flow to your organ is compromised. Or, it could lead to clotting as blood backs up in your arteries, followed by stroke if a clot suddenly bursts near your brain.

Risks & Symptoms of PAD

You could have PAD and not notice any symptoms until your disease progresses. Others may mistake their PAD symptoms for another condition. To avoid misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses, it is important to learn the most commonly observed symptoms of PAD. They include:

  • Leg pain during exercise, and also when at rest
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Wounds (ulcers) of the legs, foot, or toes that do not heal easily
  • Legs or feet that are cold to the touch
  • Slow nail growth on toes or lack of hair growth on the leg
  • Some men experience erectile dysfunction

Patients are more at risk for peripheral artery disease when they:

  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have diabetes
  • Are obese
  • Have high blood pressure & cholesterol
  • Are over 50 years of age
  • Have a family history of heart issues or strokes

How is PAD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing peripheral artery disease is painless. And there are many ways to test for PAD, so your health care provider will perform a physical examination to determine which to choose. In addition, your doctor may perform:

Ankle Brachial Index: This compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in the arms. It determines if your blood pressure is faltering in one area or throughout the body. Next, there are ultrasounds, which use sound waves to measure blood flow and visualize blockages in your arteries. Alternatively, you may need angiography: you’ll get a colored dye injection in your blood vessels. Then, we’ll trace the dye with an imaging device, so we can follow your blood path and determine where the problems lie. Finally, you may need blood tests to determine if your symptoms are the result of diabetes or other issues.

Sources: Mayoclinic.org

This is Why a Summer Birthday Means More than A July Birth Flower

If you’re born in spring or summer, you may know your April or July birth flower. But did you that the time of year during which you were born can actually determine the way you die?

Yes, that’s scary…but true! And, more specifically, your birth month is directly linked to your odds of dying from heart disease! Want to know the worst birth months for heart health? Just keep reading!

Spring and Summer: The Seasons of Heart Disease

In a study published in The BMJ, researchers discovered that heart disease is more likely to kill you if you’re born between April and September, the spring and summer months.

Unfortunately, scientists can’t say exactly why these birth months increase your risk. But they do suggest that there’s a connection between your birth month, and your early exposure to seasonal dietary changes, available sunlight and air quality.

To reach these conclusions, they followed 116,911 women who were recruited for the study, and between the ages of 30 and 55 in 1976. Researchers examined the timing of their births, overall causes of death, and deaths caused specifically by heart disease.  Every two years, ending in 2014, the women completed health and lifestyle questionnaires.

By the end of the study period, over 43,000 of the women had died. And 8,360 of those women died of issues related to heart disease. While that figure may not seem so surprising, here’s what is: spring and summer babies were significantly more likely to have that cause of death when compared to their peers who were born in the fall. Still, without a direct causal link, the scientists warn us that this study is observation only. After all, they can’t completely rule out other, unmeasured factors that may contribute to the increased risk.  Still, if your birthday falls in this range—or even if it doesn’t—it’s important to learn the early warning signs of heart disease, so you can seek treatment at the first sign of a problem.

These are the Warning Signs for Heart Disease

Whether you have an April or July birth flower, and regardless of your risk for cardiovascular disease, you should never ignore these tell-tale symptoms. Especially if they are sudden and unexplained:

1. Chest pain

2. Stomach pain

3. Sweating

4. Leg pain, especially when cramps appear with movement. This could be an early sign of of PAD (peripheral arterial disease).

5. Arm pain

6. Swollen ankles (edema), which can indicate circulatory problems or even heart failure.

7. Chronic exhaustion

Treatment Options for Symptom

Luckily for all our July birth flowers out there, we can treat many of these early warning signs of heart disease. When it comes to PAD, our minimally invasive treatments, including angioplasty and atherectomy, can help return blood flow to your outer limbs. In turn, this should boost your overall circulation, and could even reduce your risk for progressive heart disease.

Got edema? We’ve got solutions. First, the FDA recently approved a new edema medication, known as Soaanz. It’s meant for patients who have heart failure and/or kidney disease. So, if you’re not there yet, you may prefer this easy lifestyle solution for leg swelling: eat more zucchini!

It’s simple, but effective for minor cases of edema. Because this veggies has water contents between 90 and 95%, it can help you stay hydrated. And, while you may think adding more water to your body will make your swelling worse, the opposite is true. Because, when you add extra hydration to your system, your body may relax its hold on other water sources. Which could help ease water retention and swelling.

Remember, on their own, any one of these symptoms should be a sign that it’s time to discuss your heart with a healthcare provider. But, in combination, consider these symptoms a potential emergency. Seek medical attention right away. And, if you’re noticing early warning signs of PAD or other symptoms of vein disease, schedule an immediate consultation with our team of Houston vein specialists!

 

 

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