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Peripheral Artery Disease: Can You Walk Your Way to Better Mobility?

Peripheral Atery Disease TreatmentIf you have peripheral artery disease (PAD) you know all about the pain that can come even from just a short walk. But a simple treatment — supervised exercise — may help you walk a lot farther with less pain.

PAD occurs when arteries in your legs become blocked with plaque. As it progresses, pain can occur when you walk, dramatically reducing your mobility.

Avoiding surgery by walking
For years, doctors have recommended walking therapy for those with PAD. This spring, the treatment got the go-ahead for reimbursement under Medicare, making it available to more people.

Doctors typically prescribe supervised exercise and medication to treat PAD initially. Research shows that it may help you avoid more invasive treatments.

A recent study analyzed 25 clinical trials on supervised walking therapy. It found that total and pain-free walking distances improved for those taking part in the therapy.

Nearly three-quarters of the trials reported a 50 percent improvement in walking distance and 5 percent saw a 100 percent improvement. People taking cilostazol, a drug that helps improve blood flow, typically saw a 25 percent to 40 percent improvement in walking distance.

Researchers also find that supervised walking may be as or even more effective than leg stents or bypass surgery for many who have PAD. And, a supervised walking regimen also may benefit those recovering from leg stents or bypass surgery.

What to expect from walking therapy