Get familiar with heart-healthy eating basics
The following diet guidelines from the American Heart Association can help you lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control your weight, and reduce your risk for diabetes—all of which are risk factors for PAD.
- Limit unhealthy fats and sodium
- Avoid sugary and processed foods
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole grains
- Choose low-fat protein sources, like skinless chicken and fish
- Choose skim or low-fat dairy products
Understand portion size
Did you know that meal portions have nearly doubled in the last 20 years? Thankfully, help to remember how much you should be eating is as close as your hand!
- 3 oz lean protein, like fish or chicken = a deck of cards
- 1 cup fresh fruit or vegetables = a tennis ball
- 1 serving of potatoes, rice, or pasta = an ice cream scoop
- 1 oz of peanut butter or cheese = your thumb
At mealtime, it also helps to eat from a salad plate rather than a full-size dinner plate. Fill up half your plate with vegetables and divide the other half between lean protein and grains or starch.
Treat yourself! (Occasionally)
Eating well doesn’t mean you can never have your favorite foods again. When you’re regularly making healthy choices, you can feel better about treating yourself when the occasion arises.
It’s easier to control how often and how much you eat when you plan meals and snacks ahead of time. Try making a weekly menu with what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Not only can alcoholic beverages add up to more calories, too much alcohol can have negative effects on your health. Try to stick to no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman, and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.
With peripheral artery disease (PAD),your leg pain can limit your ability to walk and decrease your quality of life. It may be difficult to go grocery shopping or walk from a parking lot.
Why be in a walking program?
You may be thinking, “If I can’t walk from my car to the shopping mall without leg pain, how could I be in a walking program?”
- Research indicates that most people, after just six weeks of being in a walking program, have a 100 to 300 percent improvement in the distance they can walk before having leg pain. (This leg pain is known as intermittent claudication.)
- According to the American Heart Association, exercise therapy is the best treatment for claudication.
Beginning your program
Here are the steps to begin your vascular walking program.
Choose locations for walking. Some possibilities include…
- medical fitness center affiliated with your local hospital
- outside sidewalks and paths (avoiding hills and slopes)
- a track at a nearby school
- a treadmill
- shopping mall
When you go walking…
- Begin with a slow warm-up walk for 5 minutes.
- Continue to walk at an increased pace. If pain begins, try to walk at least 30 to 40 yards more. Stop when the pain becomes severe. Record the number of continuous minutes you were able to walk.
- Stop, remain standing and rest, until the pain lessens. This is a key part to your circulation and symptoms.
- Resume walking until you must stop and rest. Continue this pattern until you have added up to 30 to 35 minutes of walking time. This does not include resting time.
Try to begin with a walking speed of 2 miles per hour (mph). Two mph is a speed where you can walk a quarter mile (four blocks) in 7.5 minutes.
- If you cannot walk that fast, do not worry. Next time, try a little faster until you are able to go 2 mph.
- If you are able to walk 2 mph or faster right away, that’s great!
Progressing to 60 minutes
Walk every day if you can, or a minimum of 4 days per week.
- Week 2: Add 5 to 10 minutes over the course of that week; total 40 minutes.
- Week 3: Add 5 to 10 minutes; total 50 minutes.
- Week 4: Add 5 to 10 minutes; total 60 minutes.
- Continue with 60 minutes for 5 to 7 days each week.
Once you have reached 60 minutes of walking time, increase your walking pace (how fast you go).