Tag: PAD

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is an arterial condition in which a fatty substance called plaque (or atheroma) builds up in the walls of your arteries. When that happens, your arteries ‘harden,’ making it harder for blood to flow from your heart to other parts of your body.

At first, you probably won’t notice any symptoms of atherosclerosis. But as the plaque keeps building, you can develop serious complications. That’s why prevention and early diagnosis are critical for your cardiovascular health.

Atherosclerosis: Complications blood flow before atherosclerosis

Without treatment, hardened arteries can lead to:

  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Blockages mean your leg muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Initial symptoms include leg cramps, especially when you walk or exercise.
  • Angina. Chest pain caused by the insufficient blood supply to your heart muscle.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Heart attack or stroke.

Symptom of Atherosclerosis

Initially, you won’t notice any symptoms. But over time, you may develop:

  • Leg cramps
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue or confusion, due to lack of blood flow
  • Muscle weakness or difficulty breathing
  • Limb pain at the site of a blocked artery

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop this condition. But certain factors increase your risk for arterial disease.  If you have a family history of heart disease, or you carry extra weight, you’re more likely to develop atherosclerosis. Having diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, or even drinking too much alcohol can also raise your risk.

Sadly, even your race can be a risk factor, since research suggests that African and Caribbean Americans, as well as people of South Asian descent, are at higher risk for diseases that contribute to atherosclerosis risk. Finally, aging, skipping exercise, following an unhealthy diet and smoking or using tobacco can all increase your risk as well.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Along with your medical history, you may need blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, angiograms and/or an ECG to diagnose plaque in your arteries. If you have atherosclerosis, treatments will focus on slowing progression and minimizing your symptoms. Unfortunately, once you have plaque in your arteries, we can’t get rid of it. But we can keep new plaque from forming, or keep your existing plaque from blocking your blood flow.

 

To do that, we can make diet and lifestyle changes. Procedures like angioplasty, stenting or atherectomy can help restore blood flow. And, in some cases, you may need medications to control contributing risks such as cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes.

Preventing Atherosclerosis

Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent arterial disease. Try eating healthier foods, staying active with regular exercise and working to reach or maintain your ideal weight. Limit alcohol intake and quit smoking to help reduce your risk. Finally, it’s important to take all your medications as prescribed by a healthcare provider in order to protect your arterial health and prevent complications.

Of course, it’s hard to know when to make lifestyle changes if you don’t know your arterial disease risk. Want to stay on top of your health and prevent complications? Schedule an arterial consult with our Houston area PAD specialists. We can diagnose your disease risk and take early measures to prevent atherosclerosis or other forms of cardiovascular disease.

 

When Should I Treat PAD?

Are you wondering, when should I treat PAD? This read is for you because, if you’re showing signs of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), you may be scared. Chances are you’re experiencing symptoms such as leg cramps when you walk, changes in skin color, cold or numb feet, or even ulcers. Obviously, you want relief from the discomfort. But we understand that you may live quite some distance from our Houston area offices. (That’s why we still offer Telemedicine appointments for many vein conditions.) PAD magnified

Still, you need to understand that PAD poses a very serious risk to your health. In fact, studies show that having PAD is one of the strongest predictors for cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. In other words, it’s not something you ignore, or even delay addressing. Want to learn more? Just keep reading!

When Should I Treat PAD? When Symptoms Develop

It’s important to seek PAD treatment as soon as you notice symptoms. The most common symptom of PAD is leg cramps. They tend to appear when you’re walking or exercising, and improve when you rest.

But other symptoms could mean you have PAD. Another common PAD sign is having cold feet. Now, in some cases, cold feet and hands just mean your blood flow is compromised. Other times, cold feet are a sign that narrowed arteries are restricting blood flow to your extremities. If that’s the case, you need immediate PAD treatment. Otherwise, your risk for cardiovascular disease will increase dramatically.

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease impacts your heart and blood vessels. It takes many forms, including atherosclerosis (narrowing of your arteries due to the build-up of ‘plaque.’) But, basically, it encompasses four main conditions: strokes, aortic disease, coronary heart disease, and peripheral arterial disease. Cardiovascular disease is very serious. It is still the leading cause of death in the United States—meaning it’s still more life-threatening than the Coronavirus.

Given the serious nature of heart-related conditions, you must stay on top of problems like PAD, even now. Because, according to our study, doing so could mean the difference between progressive heart disease or improved health.

In this new study from Penn State University, researchers explored the connection between your heart health and your blood pressure, diet, and physical activity levels. To reach its findings, the study followed over 74,000 participants for a few years, watching their lifestyle patterns and their cardiovascular health. Here’s what they found.

How Can I Prevent Heart Disease?

angioplasty for PAD

In order to really reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems, participants needed to follow the American Heart Association’s 7 measures for good heart health. They involving maintaining healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. You must also exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, follow a healthy diet and avoid or quit smoking.

Interestingly, the study discovered that each of these seven measures is equally important. Doing just one is obviously better than nothing; but they have the highest heart-protecting power when they work together.

In other words, if you’re still deciding when to treat your PAD, the answer is: right now. Because even minimally-invasive PAD treatment offers lasting relief.

Restored Blood Flow Translates to Pain Relief

Findings presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 reveals that restoring blood flow with an arterial stent or balloon angioplasty reduces pain and improves quality of life for patients with PAD. (We offer both these endovascular treatments in our Houston, Katy, Sugar Land, Clear Lake and the Woodlands locations.)

In contrast, a recent statement from the American Heart Association says that the quality of life toll that PAD takes on your daily life “cannot be overstated.” And the impact isn’t just one you’ll feel in the short-term. Why is that the case?

Once atherosclerosis limits blood flow to your legs, that’s already a sign you’ve got cardiovascular problems. And that means your car’s on the road to more serious complications. So, before you get stuck in the traffic jam leading to strokes or heart attacks, take a detour to better health.

Need help finding that off-ramp? Request an appointment with our Houston area PAD specialists today. We are here to offer timely PAD treatment.

Sources:

Journal of Cardiology, “Association of Trajectory of Cardiovascular Health Score and Incident Cardiovascular Disease.”

 

 

6 PAD Symptoms to Know and Watch For

We recently completed PAD Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to teach you about identifying PAD symptoms. First, a definition: Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a disease. It develops when arteries in your lower legs narrow.

Because many PAD symptoms mimic those of other conditions, this disease is often hard to diagnose. About 20 million Americans have this disease. Even worse? Almost 500,000 people end up in the hospital because of PAD each year. (A number that rose sharply between 2011 and 2017, according to a study from Yale University. Especially for men younger men, under the age of 65.)

On its own, that’s a scary statistic. But here’s a fact that should shake you up further. Up to 200,000 Americans with PAD don’t even know they have it! So, in order to prevent a missed diagnosis, we need you to know and identify PAD symptoms. If you experience any of these problems, it’s important to see your Houston vein specialist right away.

Painful Symptoms of PAD

Muscle pain is one of several symptoms of PAD

  1. Pain in Your Legs After Walking or Exercise. One of the most common symptoms of PAD, this pain or cramping occurs with movement because your lower extremities don’t get enough oxygen to support the increased activity.  Most often, PAD sufferers will experience this pain in their calf muscles, but it may manifest anywhere in the lower legs. Pain will typically not resolve until the PAD sufferer stops all physical activity.
  2. Wounds, Sores or Ulcers. This second symptom is also caused by a lack of oxygen reaching your lower limbs. When you cut yourself, and you don’t have PAD, proper circulation and blood flow will help your injury heal quickly. When you have PAD, however, even a small scrape can remain open and unhealed as the plaque in their arteries blocks blood flow to the wound. This symptom must be addressed immediately: left unchecked, a wound can lead to serious infection and even amputation.

    Physical PAD Warning Signs

  3. Skin Changes on Your Legs. Once again, poor circulation is behind this PAD symptom. Some of the physical changes that occur with PAD include skin that appears to be shiny, loss of leg and/or toe hair, and a blue-ish tinge to your skin. Your lower legs, especially your toes, may also feel cold, even when your feet are covered and should otherwise feel toasty.
  4. Muscle, Not Joint, Pain. We’ve already noted that leg pain and cramps are a symptom of PAD, but it’s important to note where that pain is located. Many people think of leg pain as a normal part of aging, and it CAN be–when that pain is happening in your joints. When it’s located in your muscles, however, that is a sign that something beyond normal aches and pains is going on.
  5. Dead tissue. Most people will identify their PAD before reaching this point, but if you have gangrenous or dead tissue on your toes, feet or legs and you haven’t been checked for PAD, get a diagnostic vein scan ASAP.

    Emotional PAD Symptoms

  6. Depression. Especially for women, your depression symptoms may develop or worsen with PAD. So if you have the symptoms we described above, and depression, it’s time for a PAD check.

Can You Prevent PAD Symptoms?

According to the American Heart Association, following life’s “Essential 8” rules can help prevent cardiovascular diseases, including PAD. (In 2022, this list was updated from the Simple 7, adding sleep as an essential lifestyle choice to prevent cardiovascular disease.)

What are these crucial eight steps you can take to prevent periphery arterial disease and other forms of heart disease?

  1. Follow a healthy diet
  2. Move more, every day
  3. Get sufficient, quality sleep each night
  4. Manage weight
  5. Control your cholesterol levels
  6. Watch your blood sugar levels, too
  7. Control your blood pressure
  8. Break up with tobacco

Preventing and Treating PAD in Houston, TX

We urge you to watch for PAD symptoms. But it’s also important to know your risk for this disease, since you may not develop symptoms until your disease has progressed dramatically. After all, if there’s one thing we need you to remember, it’s this: PAD is a progressive disease. If you ignore early warning signs, your symptoms of PAD will get worse. Don’t wait until you’re in pain. Call our Houston area clinics today and schedule an immediate PAD consultation!

 

Sources: Mayoclinic.org , Healio Cardiology 

Good and Bad Cholesterol, PAD and Your Veins

In recent years, we’ve told healthy eaters  to focus on ‘good cholesterol.’ That good cholesterol is also called HDL. And it’s touted it’s heart health benefits. Popular diet plans, like the Keto diet, focus on high fat intake. These suggest that eating good fats will be good for you!

What’s behind this idea? The thinking is that LDL (bad cholesterol), not HDL,  causes plaque to build up in your arteries. This build-up, called atherosclerosis, then leads to conditions like peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and the fluid retention of edema. And when people have PAD,  blood flow from their heart to the rest of their body slows down. In turn, this can lead to pain, cramping, ulcers and blood clots. Furthermore, it increases the risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

According to old beliefs, HDL moved LDL away from arteries and into the liver. That seemed to prevent the kind of plaque build-up that leads to PAD. Because of that kind of thinking, people were encouraged to eat foods that were rich in HDL, like olive oil, salmon and avocado. But now, research is turning that kind of thinking around, warning us that too much HDL can be just as ‘bad’ for your body as the other kind of cholesterol.

Foods to Lower Bad Cholesterol

We know that lowering cholesterol is only one piece of the puzzle. But if you want to fight bad cholesterol, look for foods with omega-3 fatty acids. These include ALA, or alpha linolenic acid, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid and EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid.

Oils, seeds and nuts are strong sources of ALA. But sourcing DHA is harder, since oily fish are the only food-based source for this omega-3.

But what fish are considered oily? Top choices include:

  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Swordfish
  • Trout

 

To get enough DHA, you’d want to have up to four servings each week of these fish. But, while DHA is important for pregnant women, eating that much fish could raise your mercury levels. So you should limit your weekly fish intake and instead talk to your healthcare provider about DHA or fish oil supplements. You should also avoid swordfish entirely while pregnant or nursing.

Even with these dietary fixes, you can’t get away with simply lowering bad cholesterol. Because, as it turns out, good cholesterol isn’t a quick fix for everything. So keep reading to find out why.

The Problem with Good Cholesterol

In this Emory University study, researchers followed 6000 people with an average age of 63 to assess their risk of heart attack or death. As we might have expected from previous studies, participants with middling HDL levels (between 41–60 milligrams per decilitre) had the lowest risk of adverse cardiovascular events. People with HDL levels below that range did, in fact, show increased risk of heart attack.

But here’s the shocking part: people with HDL levels ABOVE that range had the highest risk levels. In fact, their risk of cardiovascular events were increased by 50%! Scientists think that this increased risk is because, in high volumes, HDL may change its behavior. Instead of pulling LDL away from the arteries, it may actually transfer the LDL onto the artery walls, increasing people’s risk of vascular diseases like PAD.

While the evidence is clear in suggesting that high HDL levels increase your risk of heart attack, it is not yet proven that too much good cholesterol is the actual cause of this increased risk. At the same time, it is fact that the ‘right’ amount of HDL can protect your heart health. Given these facts, our Houston vein specialists do not yet recommend changing your diet. Instead we suggest eating heart-healthy fats in moderation. That, combined with a sensible diet and exercise, should keep you in the proven ‘safe’ zone for cholesterol.

New Findings on Olive Oil

Even with warnings about good cholesterol, there’s still evidence supporting olive oil benefits. In fact, a new study in Atherosclerosis says that daily olive oil intake protect against PAD. At the same time, it says that olive pomace oil (extracted from olive pulp) could increase your PAD risk.

The findings were part of PREDIMED-Plus, the largest nutrition trial study in Spain. It involved 4,330 participants. Researchers looked at the ankle-brachial index (ABI), considered a PDA marker. And tried to make a connection with patients’ olive oil and olive pomace oil consumption.

What they found was interesting. Participants with the highest olive oil consumption had higher ABI readings. Which meant lower PAD risks.

And, based on those findings, researchers made an important conclusion. Patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease could help prevent PAD by consuming olive oil. And they could raise their risk by taking pomace olive oil. The study appears to confirm the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet. Which is balanced and full of other heart healthy foods. And likely keeps your good cholesterol levels in the right window.

 

Early Warnings about High Good and Bad Cholesterol

Here’s what else we’ve learned about cholesterol and PAD. Once, we didn’t worry about high cholesterol levels in young people. We thought they had plenty of time to turn the ship around, and take back control of their heart health. But now, a study from the Journal of American Cardiology has a dire warning. According to these findings, having high cholesterol in your teens and 20s is a major risk factor for PAD and other forms of heart disease.

What’s behind these findings? It goes back to bad cholesterol, or LDL levels. Apparently,. the damage LDL causes to your arteries is irreversible. In other words, even if you bring down your bad cholesterol levels in your 30s, you may not be able to prevent hardening of the arteries. Given these findings, treating high cholesterol is critical at any age. Like vein treatments, delaying cholesterol interventions can lead to worse health conditions. Which means you must seek therapy at the first sign of a good and bad cholesterol problem.

Ready to take control of your cholesterol, vein and arterial health? We’re here to help, and we suggest starting with a diagnostic ultrasound. With this tool, we can detect if cholesterol has caused any problems, and get you started on appropriate health care.

Sources: Atherosclerosis Journal, European Society of Cardiology, Science Daily, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Here’s What you Need to Know about Bloodclots

In our Houston vein practice, we know how serious a threat bloodclots 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 bloodclots 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. On certain occasions, as we mentioned earlier, blood clots can kill you by traveling 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.

Bloodclots Risk Factors

Anyone can develop a clot. But certain issues raise your risk. About 8% of the population experiences hypercoagulation, a condition that makes your blood clot more often. But for those of us who don’t face this concern, pregnancy, heart disease and cancer could all increase your risk.

Still, even your lifestyle could be an issue. Being stuck in bed for extended periods makes bloodclots more likely to form. Any damage to your blood vessel walls, either due to injury or surgery, could also spell trouble. Finally, while research is ongoing, prior COVID infection seems to trigger an inflammatory response that could make your blood more likely to clot.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Since a blood clot in your legs can break free and travel to your lungs, it’s very important to recognize the early warning signs. With a clot, you may notice a hard lump in your leg, which could also display inflammation. When the affected vein is near your surface.

When your surface veins are impacted, some people describe clots as feeling like thin sausages. And, in many cases, the skin on top of that bulge appears red in color. If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, you’re at risk for serious medical complications and health concerns.

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. Some evidence suggests that drinking one glass of wine or red grape juice daily could help prevent bloodclots. Why is that the case? Well, red grapes contain an antioxidant called polyphenol that prevents the platelets in your blood from sticking together to form a clot.

But grabbing a glass of vino can’t be the only preventative measures that you take. 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

 

6 Ways Leg Pain PAD Shows Up

Worried about leg pain PAD? You’re not alone! Peripheral Arterial Disease is a tricky condition. Its symptoms look like many other vein health problems. Meaning you often wait to get your diagnosis. Take a classic symptom like tired, heavy legs, for example. At some point, everyone’s legs get tired. If you’ve walked a lot during the day, had a hard work out, or just been stuck on your feet, you may get muscle cramps or leg fatigue. And that would be perfectly normal. Sometimes, however, that discomfort in your legs could be something more serious: peripheral arterial disease, a condition in which plaque narrows your arteries, limiting blood flow to your lower extremities. Here’s how you can tell when your leg pain is a cause for concern. And a roundup of other warning signs and symptoms that could indicate trouble with your blood flow.

6 PAD Warning Signs to Watch For

PAD-affected arteries before, during and after minimally invasive treatments
  1. The leg pain PAD causes is constant. Normal leg pain only comes on once in a while. But if your legs hurt or you feel a burning sensation in your legs or rear end every time you walk or climb the stairs, it could be PAD. This is especially true if your discomfort shows up with movement and resolves with rest. That’s a likely sign of a problem, since your limited blood flow makes it painful to move, because that movement needs oxygenated blood, and your body can’t supply it.
  2. You have heavy legs. Now, this could also be a symptom of varicose veins. But leg pain PAD causes also leads to cramping and some of the other signs listed below. So heavy legs in combination with any of these other warning signs should send you for a PAD checkup.
  3. Your wounds don’t heal. Because PAD limits blood flow to your lower legs, it reduces the healing time for any cuts or injuries. So even a little scratch could become a major health challenge, since oxygen-rich blood doesn’t arrive to help with healing. If you have leg pain and an ulcer, that’s a likely sign that you’ve got PAD.
  4. Your hair growth changes. When blockages limit blood flow to your legs, that alters the way your hair cells function in the area. And that means your leg hair growth will slow or stop. Or you may even notice hairless patches on your legs.
  5. Your legs and feet are cold. Now, this symptom could be a sign of poor circulation. But if the problem is chronic, instead of problem that arises from time to time, it could be a sign of PAD.
  6. Your lifestyle puts you at risk. Smokers, people with diabetes, or individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are at higher risk of developing PAD. (Remember, cholesterol is a fatty substance your liver produces. You need some cholesterol for your body to function. But choose the ‘bad’ kind, or allow cholesterol levels to rise too high, and it can form blood-flow blocking ‘plaque’ in your arteries.) If you have these risk factors and experience regular leg pain, be sure to get checked for PAD. At our Houston-area vein clinics, we can help you get an accurate diagnosis so we can begin the healing process.

Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease in Houston

The above symptoms aren’t all you need to watch out for. Other signs of PAD include cold, numb legs and feet; changes in your skin color; poor toenail growth; changes in your leg-hair growth; and even erectile dysfunction in men.

We can diagnose PAD in our office with a bedside test called an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which uses ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If this test is abnormal we may order further imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the extent of your problem and help us plan your treatment.

PAD is a serious medical condition, but help is readily available, often without surgery. Using minimally invasive procedures, our Houston area vein specialists can help open up your arteries and restore blood flow to your lower extremities. But before we can help, you need an accurate diagnosis, so watch for warning signs and see your doctor right away if you have any cause for concern.

 

Sources: American College of Surgeons, galesburg.com

Need Help for PAD: Try these 4 Foods and 2 Drinks

Need 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 and with 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.

So, getting in the water can help reduce your disease risk. But drinking water–at least 8 glasses per day–can further reduce your risk. How? Staying well hydrated is a great way to lower your blood pressure. And lowering blood pressure to a healthy range reduces your risk for all forms of CVD, including PAD.

Find it hard to swallow all that H20? Consider giving cranberry juice a try! In addition to helping you stay hydrated, cranberry juice is also packed with vitamin c. And that vitamin c can improve blood flow, again reducing your peripheral arterial disease risk factors.

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 

Best Exercise for Peripheral Artery Disease

Exercise and PAD are an important combination if you want to avoid pain when you move. You see, if you have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) you may experience painful leg cramps. That’s because, with PAD, your atherosclerosis (hardened or narrowed arteries) limits blood flow to your legs. And this lack of blood flow leads to leg pain, especially when you walk or exercise.

Surprisingly, even though it hurts to move, increasing your movement can help manage and reduce your PAD pain. That’s why physical activity is so important for anyone living with this condition.

Exercise and PAD

Even though our country is starting to emerge from the coronavirus outbreak, you might have gotten out of your gym routine and started home workouts. That makes a lot of sense, especially if you have compromised health because of underlying conditions like PAD. But, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your exercise routine. It just needs to change a little.

In fact, there’s great reasons to keep exercising, even in these scary times. Research suggests that getting mild to moderate exercise, every day, can boost your immune system and help control your PAD symptoms. Just remember, for both this outbreak and your PAD, “moderate” is the key. Anything too intense could leave you hurting, and reduce your immune response.

Smart Exercises for PAD

Since walking is one of the best workout options for people with PAD, why not simply take your workouts outside? Pick a quiet outdoor spot and stroll away. Bonus: exercising outdoors gets you in nature, which can help calm anxiety—something many of us are grappling with right now.

Go for as long as you can, even working up to a slow jog if you’ve discussed this with your vein specialist. Just keep your distance from any other outdoor workout warriors—six feet is the recommended length. This way, we can work together to prevent the spread of disease, without sacrificing your personal fitness.

Treating PAD to Make Exercise Easier

When you have PAD, walking can trigger pain. (We call this claudication.) But exercise improves PAD symptoms over time. in fact, new research in JAHA shows that walking fast enough to cause this pain is actually important. Because, after six and 12 months, study participants who kept up a walking pace that caused leg pain or discomfort walked noticeably longer distances per minute than study participants who walked at a comfortable pace. (Or who skipped walking workouts altogether.)

Over time, treating your PAD in other ways 2can actually make it less painful to exercise. In fact, new studies show that treating PAD with angioplasty gets more oxygen to your legs.  After treatment, researchers found that patients experienced less leg fatigue and breathlessness. (Even when they exercised at the peak of their efforts!)

What does that mean for you? If you’re living with PAD, keeping active can help you stay healthy. But you may need more help–and PAD treatment–in order to exercise without pain. Ready to get more active? Reach out to our Houston area arterial specialists for an appointment today. We are happy to offer a PAD assessment, and help you find the relief that you’re seeking!

Sources: Physiology Report

Why are my Feet Numb? Help for Diagnosing PAD

Are you wondering, why are my feet numb? Or have you developed leg cramps or calf pain when you walk? While these symptoms might send you running to the podiatrist, they’re actually a sign of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a form of heart disease. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Are My Feet Numb? Early Signs of Heart Disease why are my feet numb

When you think about heart disease, you probably think about chest pain. Maybe you’ve even heard that shooting arm pain could be a heart attack warning sign. But you probably don’t think about your feet telling you something about your heart. And that’s a mistake.

After all, your heart’s got a big job: it has to circulate blood throughout your body. But, if something slows down your circulation, this form of heart disease could trigger symptoms in your feet and legs.

For that reason, the answer to, “Why are my feet numb,” could be: your heart’s in trouble. And, more specifically, it could be a sign you’ve got PAD. Especially if you also notice leg cramps, skin color changes or patches of hair loss on your legs.

Leg Cramps and Whole Body PAD Symptoms

Why does PAD cause numbness or leg cramps? The answer is pretty simple. When you have this condition, plaque has built up inside your arteries. (We call this atherosclerosis.)  This build-up narrows your arteries, so less blood gets through to your legs and feet.

What happens next? Well, with reduced blood flow, numb feet are possible. Plus, those leg cramps we mentioned can show up when you walk or exercise. And that’s because they’re not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood to support their movement.

C.H.A.T Campaign for Diagnosing PAD

In April, we marked “Limb Loss Awareness Month” and “National Minority Health Month.” And that’s why we need to answer questions like “Why are my feet numb?” by diagnosing PAD. After all, three-in-five heart attack sufferers have PAD, as do one fifth of people over 60 and one-third of people with diabetes over the age of 50. Members of minority communities have a high risk of undiagnosed PAD, which ups their risk for heart attacks, strokes, and  amputations.

For that reason, activists launched a new campaign, called Let’s C.H.A.T.,” to help clinicians diagnosing PAD during routine checkups. The initials stand for Carotids, Heart, Abdomen, and Toes. And they offer a plan for determining vascular health with the tools available in a typical clinic. Here’s how it all breaks down.

C: Check the neck arteries, called CAROTIDS, for an audible sound known as a bruit. This suggests problems with blood flow.

H: Check HEART rhythm and rate.

A: Listen for a bruit in the ABDOMEN.

T: Examine the TOES for foot and leg pulses. This can help detect restricted blood flow due to PAD.

Along with a comprehensive oral health history and our PAD risk assessment metric, these little letters could help patients get an earlier diagnosis. And reduce their risk for cardiovascular complications.

Why are my feet numb and other PAD Symptoms

Of course, these aren’t the only signs of PAD. Other common symptoms include changes in your feet and legs’ skin color. (Usually becoming pale, or even developing a blue-ish tinge.)

Your feet may feel cold, the growth of your leg hair and toenails may slow, or you may even develop leg ulcers. It’s also important to mention that PAD symptoms differ for men and women. Some men develop erectile dysfunction with this condition. And women tend to have fewer noticeable symptoms. This means their diagnoses come later, leading to more serious complications and more invasive treatment needs.

Preventing PAD

Several lifestyle changes can help you reduce your risk for PAD. First and most important: quit smoking if you haven’t already. Like PAD, smoking limits your blood flow. So the two together can make a deadly combination.

Next, it’s very important to follow a vein health diet, to control your cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy weight, and keep your blood sugar levels in the ideal range. Regular exercise can prevent heart disease. (And certain types of exercise can even improve PAD symptoms like leg cramps.) Of course, in some cases these measures won’t be enough to prevent disease. In that case, you’ll need to seek medical treatment options.

Diagnosing and Treating PAD in Houston, TX PAD treatment

Identifying PAD is crucial, because the condition increases your risk for strokes and heart attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Because of this serious risk, preventing peripheral arterial disease is incredibly important. And so is early diagnosis and intervention.

In our Houston area vein clinics, we offer an easy assessment to help identify your PAD risk. Then, if you have an elevated risk, or already have atherosclerosis, we can recommend a variety of treatment options. These include angioplasty, stenting and atherectomy. And the option we suggest for you will depend on your current health and the severity of your condition.

Why are my Feet Numb? Non-PAD Related Causes

In some cases, numb feet and leg cramps don’t mean you have PAD. In fact, if you’re diabetic, the answer to “Why are my feet numb?” could be peripheral neuropathy. (This is a form of nerve damage that impacts up to 70% of diabetics. And it limits feeling in your feet, or causes tingling or burning pain.)

Neuropathy is also a common after-effect of chemotherapy. And people living with HIV may also develop this form of nerve damage. You could even develop numb feet without PAD or neuropathy: this symptom could be a side effect of certain medications, as well as autoimmune diseases, kidney problems or even liver issues.

Regardless of the cause, numb feet and leg cramps are symptoms you can’t ignore. For that reason, if you’ve noticed changes in foot sensation, leg cramps or other PAD warning signs, the time to act is now. Schedule an immediate appointment with our team of Houston area vein specialists. Using the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI, a simple bedside test) we can quickly and painlessly diagnose peripheral arterial disease. Then, if that’s the cause of your numb feet, we can tailor your treatment plan to prevent serious complications and heart disease progression.

 

The Scary Truth about PAD and Limb Loss

PAD is one of the top causes of limb loss in this country. And that’s a big deal, since over 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss. If those statistics sound scary, consider this: by the year 2050, an estimated 3.6 million people will have a lost limb.

Now, vascular conditions are responsible for the most amputations in this country. But they aren’t the only problem. Other causes of limb loss include trauma, cancers and birth defects.

PAD Limb Loss Statistics

A year-long study by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America uncovered frightening stats.

  • Diabetics have a 10 times higher risk of amputation than anyone else.
  • Among diabetics, those of African American, Hispanic, and Native Americans backgrounds have an even higher risk of lower limb loss.
  • 82% of amputations in the U.S. are the result of vascular disease. We expect this percentage to rise as more Americans develop diabetes and PAD.

Diabetes, PAD and Limb Loss PAD causes leg pain and limb loss

What’s the connection between these big three problems? Let’s take a closer look. Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired.

When diabetes is poorly controlled, glucose can build up in the blood stream and contribute to the development of plaque, a substance that can narrow your arteries and reduce blood flow, usually to your legs and feet.

PAD and Cholesterol

Built-up glucose isn’t all that contributes to plaque. High cholesterol levels are also part of the problem. Your liver produces cholesterol to help regulate your metabolism. But when it produces too much of this waxy substance, cholesterol can combine with glucose and other substances to create plaque buildup. And that’s when your blood flow can be affected.

One of the earliest signs of a problem is when your toenail growth slows down. Brittle toenails can also be a problem, along with loss of leg hair, shrunken muscles, or even erectile dysfunction in men. But all of these are merely symptoms of the main problem–reduced blood flow to your extremities.

In fact, that’s the definition of PAD—a condition that sets in when blood vessels develop atherosclerosis (built up plaque) inside the vessel walls. The plaque narrows the vessels narrower, slowing blood flow. If a blockage hardens it is more likely to burst and cause a blood clot to develop. A clot may completely block your artery, which cuts off blood flow to your legs and feet. If that occurs, a few things could happen.

Because of the reduction in blood flow that comes with PAD, the vascular condition is a risk factor for foot ulcers (deep wounds that just won’t heal), and foot ulcers frequently lead to foot and lower limb amputations, especially in diabetic patients. In severe instances, where all blood flow to the legs and feet is blocked, gangrene can take hold in your limbs and lead to an amputation before you even see an ulcer or any other warning sign.

Are you starting to get the picture? Each condition feeds into the next, putting individuals at major risk of losing vital limbs.

Who’s At Risk for PAD?

  • Anyone over the age of 50
  • Diabetics
  • People with kidney failure
  • Obese or sedentary individuals
  • Smokers
  • People with high cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Individuals with a family history of PAD

PAD Treatment Options manage blood pressure to prevent PAD and limb loss

We have to diagnose your PAD before offering treatment. Because, without a comprehensive vascular exam, available in our Houston vein clinic, it’s difficult to spot PAD. After all, PAD symptoms can imitate other problems, so this condition is often misdiagnosed or not caught at all!

Currently, doctors are exploring new PAD treatments. One of these experimental ideas involves standing on a pulsating plate for half an hour. Called Revitive, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) hopes this therapy will improve your blood flow, helping relieve PAD pain.

Other PAD treatments may involve surgery to transplant healthy veins from somewhere else in your body. You may also need to treat the underlying causes of your PAD. So treatment could include prescription medications to manage blood pressure and cholesterol. You may even need blood thinners to help improve blood flow to your legs.

But in our office, we try to help you find relief in the safest way possible. Once you know that you have PAD, we can determine a treatment plan: interventions may be as simple as recommending lifestyle changes like a better diet and more exercise. Depending on the progression of the disease, our vein doctor may recommend unblocking your arteries through one of our minimally invasive interventional radiology treatments.

Our goal as vein doctors is to protect your vein health and your limbs. Know the risks of PAD and, if you believe you may have this condition, come in for a consultation. One simple exam could keep you from becoming part of this country’s growing group of limb loss victims.

Sources: https://www.sciencedirect.com, NHS Health Research Authority

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