Home-based walking program eases clogged leg arteries

May 21, 2014

A home-based exercise program helped people with clogged leg arteries walk farther and faster, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The program was beneficial even 12 months after participants started the program.

Previously, studies have shown that can improve and lessen the symptoms of (PAD), but this is the first to document the long-term benefits of a home-based walking program.

"The problem with supervised exercise is that it takes many visits to a cardiac rehabilitation center or other exercise facility, and it is not covered by Medicare," said Mary McGrae McDermott, M.D., lead author and the Jeremiah Stamler professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "Our results should encourage physicians to recommend walking even if their patients do not have access to a supervised-."

The study compared walking ability in patients and controls a year after the end of a six-month program that encouraged home-based walking. For the first six months, 81 patients participated in weekly meetings to provide support and skills training to help them adhere to the home exercise program. They also received phone calls to encourage continued walking during months 7-12. Eighty-seven controls participated for a year in weekly educational meetings and received phone contact on unrelated PAD topics such as managing hypertension, cancer screening and vaccinations. At 12 months, participants in the home-based program had increased the distance they could walk in six minutes from 355.4 to 381.9 meters, an improvement of about 87 feet. In contrast, the distance covered by the controls fell slightly, from 353.1 to 345.6 meters.

According to McDermott, walking exercise is the most effective non-invasive treatment for PAD, but a program must take into account that walking may cause a cramp-like pain in leg muscles that don't get sufficient oxygen. By alternating walking and rest, patients can build up the amount of time they can walk before pain occurs. In the home program, patients were instructed to try to walk at least five days a week, building up to 50 minutes. When occurred, they were to stop and rest until legs were comfortable again and then resume walking.

"The results emphasize the importance of recognizing and treating PAD, a common condition that often remains undiagnosed and can become life-threatening as it restricts circulation to the legs, arms, feet, and kidneys," McDermott said. "Patients with PAD are also at heightened risk for heart attack and stroke."

"Don't think walking problems are a normal part of aging. If you have leg pain, weakness, tingling or other difficulty walking, report it to your doctor and ask about the possibility you may have PAD. Diagnosing PAD is important because therapies can improve your health."

Explore further: Home-based walking exercise program improves speed and endurance for patients with PAD

Related Stories

Home-based walking exercise program improves speed and endurance for patients with PAD

July 2, 2013
In a trial that included nearly 200 participants with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a home-based exercise intervention with a group-mediated cognitive behavioral intervention component improved walking performance and ...

New research could help millions of Americans reduce leg pain from peripheral artery disease

September 23, 2013
A new approach to treating peripheral artery disease could lead to happier and healthier lives for millions of Americans.

Combining exercise, vessel-opening procedure reduces leg pain

November 19, 2013
Supervised exercise combined with a procedure that opens clogged blood vessels reduces leg pain significantly better than exercise alone in patients with blocked blood vessels in the legs, according to a late-breaking clinical ...

Walking may have profound benefits for patients with kidney disease

May 15, 2014
For individuals with kidney disease, walking may help prolong life and reduce the risk of needing dialysis or a kidney transplant. That's the conclusion of a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.