Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a circulatory condition that occurs when there is excessive plaque build-up on the arterial walls, causing the arteries to narrow. This fatty plaque buildup is also known as atherosclerosis. Plaque is an unhealthy combination of fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and proteins that cause blood clotting. When plaque accumulates in the arteries, it becomes hard and stiff, leading to atherosclerosis and PAD. Could PAD be linked to hypertension?
PAD can impact any area of the body. However, it occurs most commonly in the lower extremities, such as the legs, feet, and ankles. When plaque builds up, it restricts the flow of blood, oxygen, and glucose. This obstruction starves muscles and tissues of essential nutrients, which causes pain in the lower legs.
Unlike other parts of the body, such as the arms or hands, it is difficult for your lower extremities to receive proper blood flow because they are nearest to the ground and working against gravity. As a result, your circulatory system must work even harder to make sure these areas receive the nutrients they need.
During the early stages of this condition, PAD symptoms may go unnoticed as they begin with mild legs cramps. You may also experience pain or tiredness in your leg muscles when exercising or walking. The pain usually goes away with rest, only to resurface when you start moving again. However, as your lower limbs receive less and less blood flow, symptoms may progress in severity. PAD can lead to non-healing ulcers, gangrene, limb amputation, and even death if left untreated.
How are PAD and hypertension connected?
What is hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is another extremely common circulatory condition that puts affected individuals at high risk for cardiovascular diseases, especially PAD. Blood pressure is the force of circulating blood against the arterial walls. Hypertension occurs when the force of this circulating blood is too high.
Two numbers measure a blood pressure reading. The first number, known as the systolic blood pressure, represents the amount of pressure your blood is exerting against the arterial walls when the heart is beating. The second number, known as the diastolic blood pressure, represents the amount of pressure your blood is exerting against the arterial walls when the heart is resting between beats. A normal blood pressure reading consists of a systolic number of 120 or below and a diastolic number of 80 or below. Anything above 120/80 puts you at risk of developing PAD.
Over time, high blood pressure can damage the arterial walls, causing excess cholesterol to gather. There are two types of cholesterol. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is considered “bad” cholesterol and makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is considered “good” cholesterol. Its job is to absorb cholesterol and carry it back to the liver. High levels of LDL can lead to blocked arteries, a major cause of PAD.
What are other risk factors associated with PAD & hypertension?
Being aware of the characteristics that put individuals at an increased risk for developing both PAD and hypertension now can help to prevent the disease later. Common risk factors may include:
Age (those over 60 are at higher risk)
Lack of Exercise
Family History of PAD
Managing PAD and Hypertension at Home
Unfortunately, there is no cure for PAD. However, there are habitual changes you can implement at home to help manage your symptoms. For example, eating a balanced diet can help improve your blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Spinach, berries, salmon, and walnuts are healthy foods you can incorporate into your diet that will help to strengthen your vascular system. Regular exercise is another way you can combat the painful symptoms of PAD. Walking, biking and yoga can stimulate blood flow and ease your symptoms.
If you’d like to seek additional care, there are many treatment options available. The Vascular Specialists at Pedes Orange County offer minimally invasive methods of treatment to combat PAD.
Bypass Grafting is a surgical procedure that creates a detour for blood flow, bypassing any blocked arteries. Using a graft, a Vascular Surgeon creates a bypass. Grafts come from parts of your vein or a man-made synthetic tube.
PAD Treatment at Pedes Orange County
Stenting is a minimally invasive treatment option for PAD. Years of plaque buildup can cause damage to the walls of the artery. Stents are wiry, mesh tubes that can be placed inside of an artery. They act as an internal support system for the damaged walls and prevent arteries from closing after the plaque is removed. Stents can also be coated with medicines to prevent future plaque buildup.
Angioplasty is another minimally invasive procedure in which a Vascular Surgeon inserts a small catheter into the artery to restore blood flow. A small balloon inflates at the tip of the catheter once it is inside the artery. The balloon pushes the plaque against the artery wall. The pressure created by the balloon widens the narrowed arteries, allowing for optimal blood flow throughout the leg.
Our final minimally invasive procedure option is an atherectomy. While under local anesthesia, a Vascular Surgeon uses a catheter (a small, thin tube) to gently remove plaque stuck in your arteries. First, they will make a small incision to insert the catheter. Then, the catheter gently removes and sucks the plaque out from the small chamber at its tip, thus optimizing arterial blood flow.
Early detection of PAD is crucial for your overall health. It can save you from a world of dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, health problems in the future. If you think you may be suffering from PAD, schedule a consultation with one of our Vascular Specialists at Pedes Orange County today!