Recently Kim Alten, FNP-BC, with Western Vascular Institute, presented an overview of Peripheral Artery Disease to members of Banner High Country Seniors. Her program included some basic definitions and then went more in-depth.


• An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

• Arteries are thicker than veins and have stronger, more elastic walls.

• Arteries sometimes develop plaque within their walls in a process known as atherosclerosis.

• These plaques can become fragile and rupture, leading to complications associated with diabetes, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Peripheral arteries

• Peripheral arteries send oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body.

• In PAD, plaque builds up in the artery walls.

• Just like coronary artery disease, plaque narrows the arteries and leaves less room for blood to flow through.

• If your legs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients, they will feel sore or tired when you walk or climb stairs.

• Having PAD raises your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

With PAD not enough oxygen-rich blood and energy can pass through the arteries due to narrowing. The following symptoms may indicate the disease: weakness in legs; numbness or cramping in legs with walking; legs may feel cold; color change, dark pink, purplish, dusky.

The symptoms may be present or absent, but are due to a lack of blood flow to the muscle group, resulting in pain in the affected muscle groups. However, if the individual has diabetes or neuropathy, the pain may not be felt.

The presence of an extremity ulcer is one of the more obvious clinical signs of poor circulation. Other common symptoms: pain with walking a short distance; pain at rest when legs are elevated, but lessens when legs are dangled.

Additional warning signs and symptoms can include:

• If you have poor circulation, it will typically begin in your legs first

• Pain in the calf muscles when you walk (claudication) is the most common symptom

• Poor wound healing or decline in the pulses in your feet

• These symptoms may indicate serious blockages in the vascular system

The good news — 80 percent of the risk may be avoidable:

• Eat a diet low in trans fats, high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables — our metabolism slows down with age and we need fewer calories, so make the ones you get count; choose foods packed with the nutrients you need; eat dark leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables; increase low-fat dairy to get calcium for bones; choose fortified foods, like cereals with vitamin B12 and milk with vitamin D; cut down on empty calories from sugary drinks and sweets.

• Stop smoking

• Exercise most days

• Check your cholesterol and blood pressure routinely

Western Vascular Institute, 708 S. Coeur D’Alene Lane, Suite B, Payson; 928-363-4060, ext. 3, provides both vascular and general surgery.

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