Regular Exercise Helps Keep Leg Arteries Clear

TUESDAY Aug. 9, 2011 -- People with low lifetime levels of physical activity are at increased risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), a new study has found.

People with PAD have narrowed leg arteries that reduce blood flow, which impairs the ability to walk.

The researchers checked for PAD in 1,381 patients referred for a test called an elective coronary angiography. The arterial condition was detected in 258 (19 percent) of these patients. The investigators then looked at the lifetime recreational activity (LRA) of the participants. The assessment of LRA included vigorous activities such as jogging, moderate activities such as golf, and light activities such as strolling.

PAD was nearly twice as common among the least active patients (25.6 percent) than among those who were physically active (13.7 percent). After factoring in other risk factors, the researchers determined that patients who reported no regular LRA had a 1.5 times increased risk of developing PAD.

The study is published in the August issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

"Our study is the first to reveal that a person's level of recreational activity is associated with whether or not they develop PAD," co-author Dr. John P. Cooke, a professor of medicine at Stanford University's Falk Cardiovascular Research Center, said in a journal news release.

About 8 to 12 million people in the United States have PAD.

"Based on our study, it seems likely that people who regularly engage in recreational activity (even mild exercise such as strolling) throughout their lives are much less likely to develop lifestyle-limiting and limb-threatening PAD," Cooke said in a news release from the Society for Vascular Surgery.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about peripheral artery disease.

Posted: August 2011


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