Do you experience pain in your legs when you walk down the block, to your mailbox, or even from the bedroom to the kitchen?
If you do, you’ll want to keep reading; especially if you’ve decided to treat the condition by staying off your feet.
More than eight million older Americans are suffering from debilitating leg pain that arises from walking even short distances—and it’s likely that half of them aren’t aware of what’s causing the problem or seeking effective treatment. And the most common, seemingly intuitive treatment—not walking as much—could put them at risk for a heart attack, stroke, or something worse.
Peripheral Artery Disease (Pad) Typically Affects Individuals 70 and Older
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) (1) is when arteries in the leg become backed up or clogged. This results in poor blood circulation that leads to pain when the legs are in use. And sitting down to avoid walking is one of the worst—and most dangerous—ways of dealing with it.
PAD typically affects individuals who are 70 or older, and over 80% of those diagnosed are, or were, smokers. However, if you’ve got diabetes, it can take hold as early as 60. And because it’s a circulatory condition, issues such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure are also risk factors.
Now there may be a number of reasons why you might avoid walking, especially as you age. Hip pain, back pain, trouble breathing, and fatigue may all play a role in how far you’re able to push yourself, but all of these conditions are typically improved through exercise and movement. And the more you move, the less likely you are to develop PAD or be hampered by its pain.
If you experience leg pain you can’t explain, you may have PAD. Go to your doctor to get it checked out, but also do your best to treat it at home. It seems as though the best fix for the condition is to train the body to walk and allow it to adapt to the new condition.
Start by walking as far as you can until the pain kicks in. When it does, sit down and rest until it subsides. Once it goes away, get back up and walk again, and repeat this cycle until you’ve spent a total of 20 minutes walking. Only count the time you’re on your feet walking, not your rest periods. Do this every day and keep going until you’re reaching 30 minutes.
This training should not only build tolerance, but also change your physiology to adapt to the arterial blockages. Getting the blood used to pumping in the region can build collateral blood vessels in the area around the main arteries, helping blood get where it needs to be.
And the biggest benefit of this activity is that it keeps you from being sedentary, which has a number of known health implications. The more time you spend inactive every day, the higher your risk for heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, and a shorter, more difficult life.
If you’ve got leg pain, get up, get it checked, and start walking to combat this condition. Don’t let it keep you down!