There are many risk factors that have been identified as contributing to Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) and the severity of the disease. In order to decrease the risk that persons will experience other cardiovascular events related to their P.A.D., patients are advised to eliminate or modify their risk factors.

Smoking Cessation

What quitting smoking can do for you?

Quitting smoking may be the most important life saving step people with P.A.D. can take. And, it is not too late. Research shows that people with P.A.D. can lower the risk of heart attack, stroke or death when they quit smoking.

Persons with P.A.D. who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products should stop smoking. The risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), amputation and death is much higher among persons with P.A.D. who continue smoking than among those who stop smoking. Also, persons with P.A.D. who quit smoking are able to tolerate more exercise than those who continue to smoke.

Lower Blood Pressure

Treating high blood pressure is a very important part of treating P.A.D. You can prevent or delay a heart attack, stroke and other health problems by having your blood pressure checked at every health care visit (or at least two to four times a year) and by taking action to reach your blood pressure goal.

Lower Cholesterol

Studies show that keeping blood cholesterol levels under control can help people with P.A.D. lower their chances of a heart attack, stroke and a poor quality of life.


Exercise is the most effective treatment for persons with P.A.D. who are motivated to follow an exercise program. Exercise programs have been shown to increase peripheral circulation, cardiopulmonary function and ease of walking.

Recent studies show that for many people with P.A.D., a structured walking program is one of the best treatments for reducing leg pain or cramps (claudication) when walking. In fact, studies show that over time a structured walking program is often more effective and can work better than medicine or surgery in helping people with P.A.D. walk longer and further without having to stop due to pain.

A regular walking program will:

  • Let you do more and stay active
  • Reduce stress and help you relax
  • Help you control your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight.
  • Improve muscle tone.
  • Lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

Note: Clinicians may suggest that P.A.D. patients have an exercise stress test before beginning an exercise program to make sure his or her heart is healthy enough to withstand the physical rehabilitation program.

Adherence to a Special Diet

Persons with P.A.D. benefit from increasing consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit, and decreasing the intake of cholesterol and other fats. It may be helpful to reduce the consumption of simple carbohydrates, because a high intake of carbohydrates can have a negative impact on cholesterol levels.

Certain dietary supplements may decrease the risk of vascular disease. These include:

  • Vitamins B, E, and C
  • Fish Oil
  • Monounsaturated Oils
  • Garlic

Proper Foot Care

It is essential for persons with P.A.D. involving their legs to take proper care of their feet. The feet should be inspected and washed daily. If the skin is dry, a lotion such as lanolin should be applied. Foot powder should be used if necessary to keep dampness away.

Loose wool socks should be worn to keep the feet warm and they should be changed daily. No tight stockings or garters should be worn. Bare feet and open shoes are discouraged. Shoes should fit well and a podiatrist should be consulted if special shoes are needed for deformed feet.

The person with P.A.D. may need assistance with foot care. It is important that toenails not be cut too short and they should be trimmed straight across the top. Any corns or calluses should not be treated with strong chemicals or adhesive products. Instead, a podiatrist should treat them. If a skin lesion or ulceration occurs in a person with diabetes and P.A.D., it should be treated immediately.