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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms, slow disease, and improve your heart health. These changes can also lower your risk of health problems.

Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is a critical step. Smoking can cause blood vessels to twitch. This lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood. Both of these things lower the amount of oxygen that is in your legs and feet. Chemicals in smoke can also lead to plaque buildup over time. .

Talk to your doctor about ways to quit. There are many tools, such as patches, therapies, and drugs that may help. Keep in mind that breathing in smoke from other people is also harmful.

Exercise Often

Do not start any exercise program without talking to your doctor.

Exercise can help new, small blood vessels grow. These blood vessels can grow in areas with poor blood flow. This can let blood flow to tissues that need it, which may reduce symptoms. Regular aerobic training can also help raise your physical skills, quality of life, and help handle other things that lead to PAD, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

You may need to start with a supervised program that will help you help your ability to move around. Aim to get 30-45 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. From there, you may be able to increase your frequency and intensity of activity based on your progress.

Reduce or Avoid Excess Weight

Excess weight is linked to a greater risk of atherosclerosis. If you are struggling to lose weight, talk to your doctor about what you can do about it and what your ideal weight range may be. A dietitian can also help you with meal planning.

Manage Chronic Health Problems

Follow any plans for other health problems you may have. Stay in contact with your medical team to make sure you are on track and make any changes. Managing other health problems will help with your treatment of PAD. These problems are:

Control Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar levels can lead to plaque buildup in the blood vessels. Over time, it can also harm smaller vessels. Although diabetes is linked to a greater risk of heart problems, that risk can be lowered if you control your blood sugar levels. Work with your health care team to learn how to do this.

Maintain Normal Blood Pressure

High blood pressure causes strong blood flow. This can damage blood vessels. Work with your medical team to monitor and manage your blood pressure. This may include weight management, salt reduction, exercise, and stress management. For some, medicines may be needed.

Identify and Manage Depression

People who are depressed are less likely to stick to their treatment plans for other chronic conditions. They are also less likely to exercise. This leads to an increased risk of health problems from PAD.

Other Management

Foot Care

Looking at your feet every day will help prevent serious problems that can lead to ulcers or amputation. To keep your feet healthy, take these steps:

  • Look at your feet daily for injuries, ingrown toenails, or cuts.
  • Care for any injuries of the feet with regular cleansing and dressings.
  • Avoid dry skin by using moisturizing creams.
  • Wear breathable, but close-toed, shoes.
  • Get properly fitted for shoes.
  • Talk to your doctor or podiatrist about any toe or toenail problems. Make sure they know you have PAD.

Be active in your care. Talk to your team about symptoms or treatments if you are having a hard time with them.


Bondke Persson A, Buschmann EE, et al. Therapeutic arteriogenesis in peripheral arterial disease: combining intervention and passive training. Vasa. 2011;40(3):177-187.

Haas TL, Lloyd PG, et al. Exercise training and peripheral arterial disease. Compr Physiol. 2012;2(4):2933-3017.

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