CHI Saint Joseph Health Blog

May 16, 2019
man walking dog

Staying active can keep your blood flowing properly.

A sedentary lifestyle can cause weight gain and conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, but did you know it can also lead to problems with blood circulation?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) affect the way blood flows through your body. Complications from PAD and DVT can reduce the amount of oxygen your muscles receive and can also result in dangerous blood clots.

You can prevent the development of PAD and DVT, however, with simple lifestyle changes and advice from your primary care provider.

Go With the Flow

PAD occurs when plaque builds up in your peripheral arteries, which move blood and oxygen from your heart to your limbs. This plaque can narrow your arteries and interfere with blood flow. Pain and cramps, particularly in your legs, are symptoms of PAD.

Watch the video below to hear Moses Kim, MD, vascular surgeon with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Surgery, explain the symptoms that can arise from disease in the leg arteries.

“Lifestyle is the biggest contributing factor to PAD,” said Nick Abedi, MD, regional medical director and general and vascular surgeon at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group. “Poor dietary habits can lead to plaque buildup early in life, and other risk factors, such as tobacco use, can also lead to accelerated plaque buildup.”

These same risk factors also contribute to DVT, which is a blood clot that forms within a vein and is often the result of an extended hospital stay or long trips on airplanes and in cars – circumstances that restrict movement. Varicose veins can also raise your risk for DVT, but they are easily treated with an outpatient procedure.

“Movement helps circulate blood in the veins,” Dr. Abedi said. “When people aren’t active, they have an increased risk for developing blood clot to their legs. If a a clot moves upward, it can become lodged in the lung, a potentially deadly condition known as a pulmonary embolism.”

The most common symptoms of DVT are pain and swelling in the arms or legs. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice these symptoms.

Get Moving

woman riding bike in park

Though DVT requires medical treatment with blood thinners to dissolve the clot, surgical treatment to remove it or an implant to hold it in place, treatments for PAD are usually unsuccessful without long-term lifestyle changes.

“Diabetes management and tobacco abstinence need to happen before medical intervention,” Dr. Abedi said. “We like our patients to do 30 minutes of intentional walking every day to start their exercise regimen.”

Exercising, avoiding tobacco and eating a balanced diet that is low in fat and sodium can help reduce your risk of PAD.

Minor PAD symptoms cannot be permanently resolved without a heart-healthy lifestyle, and advanced symptoms, such as ulcers or infections, may require urgent or emergency treatment.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 edition of Spirit of Health magazine. Subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine to read more stories like this one.