An exercise program designed to help patients with peripheral artery disease is available through Trinity Health’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
Supervised Exercise Training for Peripheral Artery Disease (SET PAD) is a program of supervised exercise rehabilitation, considered a primary treatment for people with peripheral artery disease and intermittent claudication, the aching pain felt in the legs during walking or exercising.
Peripheral artery disease is a disorder caused by narrowed blood vessels that reduce blood flow to the limbs, explained Julie Rood, RN, with Trinity Health Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. It is caused by atherosclerosis, when fatty deposits (plaque) build up along the artery walls, reducing blood flow.
Approximately 8.5 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease, including 12 to 20 percent of individuals over the age of 60. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of peripheral artery disease increases with age. In addition to atherosclerosis and age, risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Regular physical activity is an effective treatment for peripheral artery disease; simple walking regimens, leg exercises, and treadmill exercise programs can ease symptoms, the American Heart Association said. Through the exercise program, patients benefit from the improvement of functional capacity, quality of life, oxygen extraction and utilization by exercising muscles, endothelial function, blood flow, gait and walking economy, and tolerance to pain.
Rood said it is preferred that patients participate in the program three times a week for 12 weeks – for a total of 36 sessions – “to get the most benefit.” “The program will get patients started so they can carry on after the 12 weeks.”
The program implements the F.I.T.T. principle for the program: Frequency (three times a week); Intensity (exercise to moderate pain); Time (30- to 40-minute sessions); and Type (“We do want them walking,” Rood said. “For those limited that can’t use the treadmill, we do seated modalities with them.”)
A doctor’s referral is required to participate in the program. While it is covered by Medicare and Medicaid, patients should still speak with their insurance company.
Peripheral Artery Disease
While people with peripheral artery disease may have mild or no symptoms, others feel claudication, pain associated with walking.
According to Mayo Clinic, peripheral artery disease signs and symptoms can include:
- Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs, or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Sores on your toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
- Slower growth of your toenails
- Shiny skin on your legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Even if you don’t have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, it is important to get screened if you are over the age of 65; over the age of 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking; or if you are under the age of 50, but have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure.
Mayo Clinic advises that if you have leg pain, numbness, or other symptoms, call your healthcare provider and make an appointment.
Additionally, Trinity Health’s MyChoice Health Checks can help identify peripheral artery disease. MyChoice Health Checks also include screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery, coronary artery calcium scoring, and electrocardiogram. These screenings are performed at Trinity Health’s Advanced Imaging Center, located in Health Center – Town & Country. The results from these screenings are interpreted by a radiologist or cardiologist, with some requiring additional evaluation which may be offered and supervised by a nurse practitioner.
If you think that you have peripheral artery disease (or any of the others that MyChoice Health Checks look for), please consult with your primary care physician, or schedule a screening at 701-857-3220.