Leg pain that starts while you’re walking or climbing stairs could be peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that affects one in 20 adults over 50. PAD occurs when arteries outside the heart, most commonly in the leg, become clogged by substances such as fat and cholesterol. PAD is associated with a elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Untreated, it can stop circulation in the leg and even lead to amputation.

What to do:  Walking can bring on discomfort. But prescribed walking, as part of a supervised exercise program designed by your doctor that may be undertaken in a clinic, is actually the best treatment  for PAD pain, according to Michael Curqui, M.D., distinguished professor in the division of preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Walking and other exercise may also help slow the progression of PAD, along with quitting smoking and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes.

Medications for treating PAD, including cilostazol (Pletal and generic) and pentoxifylline (Trental and generic), may only slightly increase your walking distance and can have unpleasant side effects, including diarrhea or vomiting.

Source: Consumer Reports on Health December 2017

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