There are a range of factors that can raise the risk of having a PAD. Many of them can be avoided or managed. The more factors you control, the more you lower your risk.

Quit Smoking

Chemicals in smoke add to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. This raises your risk of atherosclerosis. Smoking can also cause changes in blood vessels. These changes can affect blood flow.

If you smoke, talk with your doctor about tools and programs to help you quit. Secondhand smoke can also cause harm. Try to avoid it.

Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about a plan to lose weight. Adopt a healthy eating plan and make exercise part of your daily routine. Plan to lose weight slowly over time. A dietitian can help you with meal planning and portion sizing.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Your diet can affect your bad and good cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

A healthy diet includes plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Also consider eating good fats instead of bad fats. This means eating more good fats like olive and canola oil, and less bad fats that can raise your bad cholesterol levels.

General guidelines include adding fish to your diet at least twice per week.

Exercise Regularly

Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking, or running, can help improve blood vessel health and blood flow. It will also help strengthen the heart muscle, reduce the heart's workload, and lower blood pressure. Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to exercise If you are, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day on most days of the week.

Daily Aspirin

If you are at high risk, your doctor may suggest taking daily aspirin to help control blood clots. Blood clots may be more likely to form and cause bigger problems in people with PAD. Since aspirin therapy has risks, be sure to talk with your doctor before you start.

Manage Other Health Problems

Certain health problems are linked to a higher risk of this disease. While not all risk can be removed, managing these health problems can reduce the risk of blood flow problems. Work with your doctor to help manage:

  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension

About peripheral artery disease (PAD). American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated October 31, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2018.

Hills AJ, Shalhoub J, et al. Peripheral arterial disease. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2009;70(10):560-565.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 23, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018.

Prevention and treatment of PAD. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated October 31, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2018.

What is peripheral arterial disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed August 29, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 8/29/2018