DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What can you tell me about peripheral artery disease in my legs? How about the ballooning of those clogged arteries? Where is a good place to go for that procedure? — E.K.
ANSWER: Activity causes chest pain in people with clogged heart arteries. It causes leg pain for people with clogged leg arteries — peripheral artery disease. Angina is the chest pain of heart artery clogging; intermittent claudication is the leg pain that comes from clogged leg arteries. The obstructed arteries can’t deliver enough blood to leg muscles when a person walks. The leg muscles signal they’re being shortchanged in their blood supply by rebelling with pain.
The pain can occur anywhere in the legs. If the blockage is high up, then thigh pain is the result. If a bit lower down, it’s calf pain. Lower down even more produces foot pain. “Intermittent” indicates that the pain leaves when the person rests.
Diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are some of the things that lead to artery clogging. Aging is, perhaps, the biggest contributor to it. About 17 percent of men and women older than 65 have this problem.
A doctor confirms the diagnosis by measuring blood pressure at the ankle and comparing it with blood pressure in the arm. The two readings should be about equal. If the ankle blood pressure is much lower, it indicates that there’s an obstruction in the leg arteries.
Treatment involves a diet that reduces the amount of fat and cholesterol; it’s essentially a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with less red meat and more fish. Although walking brings on pain, walking is a treatment, too. The person walks to the point of pain, rests and then resumes walking. Medicines like aspirin, Plavix and Pletal can be beneficial.
You ask about the balloon treatment. It’s the same kind of procedure used to open clogged heart arteries. A slender tube with a deflated balloon at its tip is inched through the artery to the point of obstruction. When that’s reached, the doctor inflates the balloon to squash the obstruction. The population of your city is 50,000. I am sure many competent doctors there are versed in this procedure and can treat PAD as well as it can be treated anywhere. Ask your family doctor for a name.
The booklet on PAD explains the ins and outs of this common problem in detail. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 109W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I expect sore muscles the day after I exercise hard. They tell me I had a real workout. When my muscles are sore, I take the day off. I’ve been told to exercise regardless of sore muscles. Do you agree? — M.O.
ANSWER: A low level of exercise circulates blood to aching muscles and quickens healing. All-out exercise doesn’t give the muscles a chance to fully recover. You shouldn’t do resistance exercises (weightlifting) with the same muscles on consecutive days.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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