While peripheral artery disease (PAD) can make walking or any other type of exercise painful, exercise is actually one of the most beneficial things that you can do to reduce the pain caused by PAD.

PAD is the result of atherosclerosis, a narrowing and hardening of the arteries caused by excess LDL cholesterol (known as "bad cholesterol") in the bloodstream. Doctors urge people with PAD or other health problems due to atherosclerosis to adopt a diet low in fat (especially saturated fat) and refined carbohydrates. Many atherosclerosis patients also take statins to lower their cholesterol and beta-blockers or other drugs to lower their blood pressure.

Exercise is a key component of any atherosclerosis treatment. Physical activity has been shown to boost HDL (known as “good cholesterol”) and lower LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Those with PAD may need a supervised exercise program, but exercise (and quitting smoking) can be extremely beneficial. PAD prevents muscles from getting enough oxygen-rich blood, which can cause pain.

The following information from our A-Z Health Library can help you determine if you should talk to your doctor about PAD.