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Living with peripheral vascular disease

The two most important lifestyle changes you can make if you are diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease are to exercise regularly and stop smoking (if you need to).

Exercise regularly

Australians are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Moderate intensity physical activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate and may make you sweat, but you are still able to hold a normal conversation. You don't need to do 30 minutes of exercise all in one go, you can break it up throughout the day into two or three separate 10-15 minute sessions. This level of activity is a good start to help improve your health and help prevent development of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Choose activities that you enjoy, as you are more likely to continue doing them.

Aim to start gradually with short periods of exercise at a time then build on it.

Because peripheral vascular disease can cause leg pain, talk to your doctor about the type of exercise that is right for you. Your doctor, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist will be able to provide an exercise plan suited to your circumstances.

Quit smoking

A great place to start is to check out the Quit Now website and its variety of information and tools to support you in quitting smoking.

The Quit Now: My QuitBuddy is a personalised interactive app with quit tips, daily motivational messages and countdown to quitting reminders. The user records their goals in pictures, words or audio messages and the panic button when craving provides a range of distractions. Call the Quitline on 13 7848 or a buddy from the app, or post a note on the community board. The Quit Now: My QuitBuddy is free to download on iPhone, iPad and Android phones. To install visit iTunes online store or Google Play store.

Lifestyle changes are an important part of management. Be guided by your doctor, but general self-help suggestions include:

  • Take steps to properly manage risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, as advised by your doctor.
  • Eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height and build.
  • Take care of your legs and feet.
  • See a podiatrist regularly.
  • Take care of injuries to the affected area, for example, dress wounds promptly and seek medical attention.
  • Take all medications strictly as prescribed.
  • See your doctor for regular check-ups.
  • See your doctor if you have symptoms in the affected body part such as redness, warmth and swelling. These symptoms could be signs of infection. Treatment may include antibiotics.

Source: NHS Choices, UK (Peripheral arterial disease, Treating peripheral arterial disease)

Last reviewed: September 2015

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