Lifestyle and home remedies

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The plaques that have damaged your arteries are often the result of unhealthy lifestyle habits. So a key part of treatment is stopping any unhealthy habits and adopting healthy ones.

If you have claudication or peripheral artery disease, make sure you:

  • Don't smoke. Smoking is the most significant risk factor for the development and worsening of peripheral artery disease. Smoking increases the chance that you'll eventually require an amputation or even die of the disease. Avoid secondhand smoke, too.
  • Exercise. You may wonder how exercise can be helpful if that's what brings on the claudication pain. Actually, exercise helps condition your muscles so that they use oxygen more efficiently. So even if your muscles are getting less oxygen, they can use what they do get more effectively. That can eventually mean less pain during exertion. Your health care team can help develop a supervised exercise program that will enable you to gradually increase the distance you're able to walk without pain and increase your overall mobility.
  • Know and control your cholesterol levels. If your cholesterol levels aren't what they need to be, your doctor may recommend medication to get them to the proper levels. A meal plan that includes a variety of low-fat foods, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, can help, too. Combined with exercise, a healthy diet can help control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which can contribute to atherosclerosis.
  • Avoid certain medications. Don't use drugs that cause your blood vessels to constrict. Many sinus and cold medications sold over-the-counter contain pseudoephedrine, which is known to constrict blood vessels. Ask your doctor if there are any other medications you need to avoid.
  • Avoid injury to your feet and legs. Reduced blood flow increases your risk of complications from injuries. Choose well-fitting shoes that will protect your feet if you are participating in activities or work that might lead to injury.
  • Keep your legs below your heart. Doing so can help improve the circulation to your feet. To keep the blood flowing well to your legs and feet at night, it helps to raise the head of your bed by 4 to 6 inches.
Jan. 20, 2012