Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can be a frightening diagnosis because it raises your risk of many other cardiovascular problems. The stiffening and narrowing of the blood vessels in your legs can make walking uncomfortable and raise your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

At Maryland Cardiology Associates in Greenbelt, Maryland, we encourage our patients with PAD to make some lifestyle changes that can help lower their risk of complications and improve their health overall. In this post, our providers share their five best tips for slowing the progression of PAD.

1. Stop smoking

You already know smoking is bad for your health. Most people think the biggest risk from smoking is lung cancer, and while that’s certainly a possible result, you may not realize how much smoking damages your blood vessels.

Researchers have found that smoking increases your chances of developing PAD by three to four times. If you’re struggling to quit, talk to our staff. We may be able to provide resources to help.

2. Exercise

If it hurts to walk or climb stairs, you may feel like exercise is impossible, but physical activity is one of the best ways to slow the progression of PAD. When you first begin, there are a few strategies that can help:


Before you begin exercising, even if you’re just taking a walk, take the time to stretch your muscles.

Begin slowly

You don’t have to start with a five-mile jog every day — that wouldn’t be a good choice at all! Instead, start with five minutes if that’s what you need to do. Walk to your mailbox or the end of your block. Give yourself permission to begin with whatever you can do and build up slowly over time.

Choose activities you enjoy

If walking isn’t enjoyable, consider swimming. Maybe riding a bike is more fun for you. Try getting a friend to exercise with you so you can socialize at the same time. When you don’t hate every second of exercising, you’re far more likely to keep doing it.

3. Change your diet

Often, PAD and high cholesterol go hand-in-hand. By changing your diet, you may be able to both lower your cholesterol and slow the progression of PAD. Aim for a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

You may find it helpful to learn about the Mediterranean diet or the DASH eating plan. Both help improve PAD symptoms and lower cholesterol.

4. Take your medication

If your doctor prescribes medication such as a statin for lowering your cholesterol, taking it as directed is one of the best ways you can improve your health. In addition to slowing down the progression of PAD, your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your risk of having a serious cardiovascular event such as a heart attack.

5. Manage other health conditions

If you have another chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, managing it is crucial in slowing down the progression of PAD. Diabetes, for example, can damage the nerves in your legs and feet so that you’re less likely to notice if you have a small wound or injury. Since PAD diminishes blood flow to your legs and feet, your risk of infection is higher. By attending all of your doctor’s appointments, taking your medication as directed, and doing what you can to control chronic health conditions, you’ll also be improving the symptoms of PAD and reducing your overall health risks.

Get advice

If you have specific questions about your individual circumstances, schedule an appointment at Maryland Cardiology Associates. Our team is here to help you reach an optimal level of health, so you can enjoy the highest quality of life. Call our office today or book a visit online anytime.

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