Peripheral Artery Disease and your Aging Parent

Peripheral Artery Disease and your Aging Parent
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to narrowing of arteries caused by atherosclerosis or deposits of fatty plaques on arterial walls. It most commonly affects the legs, but can also affect the arms, stomach and head. As a primary family caregiver, you are often the first to be aware of physical or mental changes in your parent. Being aware of the symptoms associated with PAD can get your parent the prompt medical care that they need.

Signs of PAD

When the narrowing of the arteries occurs in the legs, signs include muscle cramps, pain and fatigue when walking. These symptoms commonly disappear when at rest. Other signs include wounds that don’t heal and a decreased temperature in the affected part of the body. A change in color may be noticeable as well as shiny skin on the affected extremity. 

Risks of PAD

This disease often goes undiagnosed as people assume the symptoms they are experiencing are simply due to muscle fatigue. PAD can, however, lead to gangrene and amputation if left untreated. Those with this disease have an increased risk of both a stroke and heart attack. Your parent is at higher risk of developing this arterial disease if they smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

How to Help

If your parent begins to complain of muscle pain or fatigue, make an appointment with their health care provider. The good news is that peripheral artery disease can usually be successfully treated by specific lifestyle changes. In some cases, their doctor may prescribe medications. In severe cases, surgery may be warranted.

Help your parent make the necessary changes by encouraging little alterations in their lifestyle that will ultimately lead to big rewards. This may mean accompanying them on a five minute walk that ultimately becomes a 30 minute walk. If pain is limiting their ability to walk, address your concerns with their primary healthcare practitioner. 

Dietary Recommendations

According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, “A plant-based dietary intervention is even more effective than today’s leading medications to treat and prevent heart disease.” The recommended diet consists of loads of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts and a reduced intake of cholesterol and saturated fats. In addition, they will need to stop smoking, if they do, and limit alcohol intake. 

Remember, atherosclerosis has often started 20 years before the first symptoms appear. This will not be an overnight fix. Making these lifestyle changes will, however, affect your parent in countless ways besides just reducing the plaque developing in their arteries. A home care provider can help your parent make the necessary changes by preparing healthy meals, accompanying them on walks, and providing inspiration to keep moving forward when they feel the urge to revert back to their old ways. 


If you or an aging loved one are considering home care services in Murray, UT, contact the caring staff at Interim Healthcare. Call today 801-401-3515.

Author: Michael and Marlena Hawkins, Owners, Interim HealthCare, Salt Lake City, UT 

Interim HealthCare of Salt Lake City has been in business since February 2014, providing in-home personal care and support services that help our elderly and/or disabled neighbors live enriched, safe and independent lives. Our goal is to provide customized care and support services that make it possible for our clients to remain in the comfort of their own homes rather than relocate to an assisted living facility.  Interim HealthCare is family owned by Michael and Marlana Hawkins, and is a Veteran Owned Small Business.

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