Peripheral Arterial Disease: Exercise Your Way to Health

September 28, 2011

Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD, affects many thousands of Americans, often unknowingly. September has been designated PAD awareness month, with the goal of educating people about this disease, which can be debilitating, even fatal, but is treatable.

PAD is the result of systemic atherosclerosis (clogged arteries to the legs) and is common in individuals with coronary artery disease (clogged arteries in the heart), stroke and diabetes mellitus. The chance of having PAD increases as you get older. People over age 50 have a higher risk for PAD. It has been estimated that one in 20 adults over age 50 and one in five over age 70 will have PAD. A person’s risk increases with:

· Current or previous tobacco use
· Diabetes
· High blood pressure
· Abnormal blood cholesterol levels
· African American ethnicity
· Heart disease, heart attack or stroke

While some individuals have no symptoms, others cite leg discomfort, especially aches or cramps in the calves, legs or buttocks during walking or activity. This discomfort may go away with a few minutes of rest. Symptoms are often confused with symptoms of other disorders, such as osteoarthritis, neuropathy, sciatica and spinal stenosis. If you, or someone you know has these symptoms, they should see their physician for a definitive diagnosis.

An important treatment for PAD is exercise. While many people with PAD cut back on their activities because of discomfort, this only results in further deconditioning and increasing cardiovascular risk factors and eventual disability.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with PAD can participate in an excellent PAD exercise program here at the Helen Hayes Hospital Wellness Center. An exercise physiologist and recreational therapist work together to set up an individualized exercise program . The therapist works with each person to help maximize their work out and improve the function and blood flow in the peripheral arteries.

For best results, it is recommended that people with PAD come to the Wellness Center to exercise a minimum of three days a week. The program is currently offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00-2:30 pm. The cost for this supervised program is $72.00/month. For information, you can call 845-786-4727. For additional information on PAD, visit the web site of the Vascular Disease Foundation at: <>

I am proud to note that the VDF recently presented its annual President’s Award for Partnership to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) for its leadership in developing a PAD Exercise toolkit for healthcare professionals. Over 1,000 have used the kit over the past year, undoubtedly helping to improve the health of thousands. Dr. Marjorie King, Director of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services at HHH, former president of AACVPR, and member of the VDF Board received the ward on behalf of the organization.

-Steven Lichtman, EdD, FAACVPR
Exercise Physiologist

Director, Cardiopulmonary Outpatient Services