Anti-Aging Health Vascular Disease

Help for peripheral vascular disease

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: December 11, 2017
peripheral vascular disease

What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease is a disorder of circulation which affects brain blood vessels other than the heart or brain.

peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease most commonly hits the arteries in the legs.

However it can affect the circulation in the arms as well. And it can affect veins, too.

In peripheral vascular disease, blood vessels are narrowed. Narrowing is usually caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is when plaque builds up inside a vessel.

Plaque decreases the amount of blood and therefore oxygen supplied to the affected extremities.

This is what causes the symptoms I’ll discusss below.



As plaque growth progresses, clots may develop. This further restricts the affected vessel. Eventually, arteries can become obstructed.

Peripheral vascular disease which forms  only in the arteries is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

This is the most common form of PVD.This is a gradual process in which a fatty material builds up inside the arteries.

The fatty material mixes with calcium, magnesium, scar tissues, and other substances and hardens slightly, forming plaques of arteriosclerosis.

These plaques block, narrow, or weaken the vessel walls.  Blood flow through the arteries can be restricted or blocked totally. Approximately 12 to 20 percent of people over age 65 have PAD. Peripheral vascular disease which develops in the deep veins in the body is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Peripheral vascular disease and peripheral arterial disease are terms which are used interchangeably, as DVT isn’t generally “thought” of as peripheral vascular disease as much as arterial narrowing with the symptoms it brings is.

Functional peripheral vascular disease:

This does not involve physical problems in the blood vessels. It causes incidental or short-term symptoms. Usually these spasms occur erratically. The body responds to certain external stimuli by restricting blood flow to the peripheral vessels.

The most common causes of functional PVD’s are emotional stress, cold temperatures, smoking cigarettes or operating vibrating machinery.

Organic Peripheral vascular disease-causes:

The most common cause of peripheral vascular disease is peripheral artery disease.

It is actual “Organic” PVD: This involves changes in blood vessel structure. This type of PVD causes inflammation, tissue damage, and blocked arteries.
The principal causes of organic peripheral vascular disease are: smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol which are all generally related to inflammatory eating.

Just about everyone has oxidative stress and inflammation too.

To take it farther-Risk Factors for Peripheral vascular disease:

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You are at a higher risk for acquiring PVD if you are a man over age 50 or a postmenopausal woman. The likelihood of developing PVD also increases if you have:

Heart disease /abnormal cholesterol/ high blood pressure/ cerebrovascular disease/ diabetes/ family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or PVD /being overweight/ having kidney disease where you are on hemodialysis/ smoking/ being sedentary and you don’t participate in regular physical exercise.

And the latest risk factor is:

Having decreased nitric oxide levels. This is a chicken-egg situation when you have peripheral vascular disease or heart disease because the more injury to arteries- the less “NO” you will have.

Nitric oxide is a key signaling molecule throughout the body. It is made by the endothelial cells lining the arteries.

It’s a potent vasodilator that relaxes the arteries. Therefore, nitric oxide plays a critical role in blood pressure and overall circulation. It also keeps the endothelium in shape by helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Unfortunately, atherosclerosis is characterized by “endothelial dysfunction” with a limited capacity to produce nitric oxide.

It’s a vicious cycle. Diseased arteries can’t generate enough protective nitric oxide, and low nitric oxide levels set the stage for further damage, hypertension, and increased risk of vascular events. Coming up: much more about this important, no, crucially important compound, largely ignored by the medical community to follow with advice on how to raise YOUR NO.

 What are the signs/symptoms of peripheral artery disease?

Note that about half of all people with peripheral heart disease do not know they have it, because they have no symptoms.

The most common signs and symptoms associated with peripheral artery disease include:
Hair loss on the feet and legs, numbness in the legs or  intermittent claudication.

Intemittent claudication means that  the thigh or calf muscles can develop cramping or  pain when walking.

It may also include painful hips when walking, leg weakness, brittle toenails, ulcers on the legs and feet that take a long time to heal (or never heal).

A foot or the lower leg may feel intermittently cold. The skin on the legs becomes shiny, or turns pale or bluish. Depending on “skill” the inability of your doctor to locate pulses in your legs or feet might also spell trouble.

Diagnosing peripheral artery disease:

The easiest test for PAD is the ankle-brachial index which is a test that comparing the blood pressure in the ankle with the blood pressure in the arm. Doppler imaging is a non-invasive method that visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery.

Computed Tomographic Angiography (CT) is also a non-invasive test that can show the arteries in patient’s abdomen, pelvis and legs. Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) gives information similar to that of a CT without using X-rays. Angiography is usually reserved for use in conjunction with vascular treatment procedures. During an angiogram, a contrast agent is injected into the artery and X-rays are taken to show blood flow and blockages.

What are the  treatment options for peripheral artery disease?

The most effective treatment is regular physical activity. A doctor may recommend a program of supervised exercise training.

Patients need to start slowly. Walking regimens, leg exercises and treadmill exercise programs three times a week can result in decreased symptoms in just four to eight weeks.

Exercise for intermittent claudication takes into account the fact that walking does indeed causes pain. Correct walking programs consist of alternating activity and rest in acending intervals to build up the amount of time you can walk before pain starts up. Supplements like acetyl-l-carnitine will help with muscle mass and energy.

Get your cholesterol, weight and diet composition under control. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Take supplements for inflamamation such as the very potent curcumin. Also take supplements for oxidative stress-explore our store! Smoking four-fold greatly increases the risk for PAD, heart attack and stroke-so stop smoking!

So stop smoking already-we have help here in this site. Your doctor may prescribe cilostazol or pentoxifylline. The ACE inhibitor ramipril improved pain-free walking by 60% in a study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). If the treatments mentioned above do not help enough, angioplasty may be indicated…but FIRST….read about this!

The latest findings for treatment of peripheral vascular disease=nitric oxide!

Just as one of the benefits of supplementing with a capsule per day of resveratrol and even an odorless garlic  is an increase in nitric oxide, supplements which greatly increase this important chemical in the body are being used more and more. In fact, the basis for EECP for cardiac patients is to raise their NO levels. I’ll get more into exactly how to ensure you get what you need.

Nitric oxide has been shown to be important for the following:

Helps memory and behavior by transmitting information between nerve cells in the brain.

Regulates blood pressure by dilating arteries.

Improves sleep quality. ZZZZZZzzzzzz.

Assists the immune system at fighting off bacteria and defending against tumors.

Reduces inflammation.

Increases your recognition of smells!

Assists in gastric motility

Assists athletes who want more strength and endurance naturally. Actually everyone has an energy boost with NO!

Increasing nitric oxide has become the new secret weapon for athletes and bodybuilders.

Athletes are now taking supplements with L-arginine and L-citrulline to support the flow of blood and oxygen to the skeletal muscle.

They also use them to facilitate the removal of exercise-induced lactic acid build-up which reduces fatigue and recovery time. Since arginine levels become depleted during exercise, the entire arginine-nitric oxide – citrulline loop can lose efficiency, causing less-than-ideal nitric oxide levels and higher lactate levels.Supplements can help restore this loop allowing for better workouts and faster recovery from workouts. This is a synopsis of the top nitric oxide benefits. 

Yes, you can get the same benefits with foods, with beets being top of the list-more info to come on this up next.

There have been over 60,000 studies done on nitric oxide in the last 20 years and in 1998, The Nobel Prize for Medicine was given to three scientists that discovered the signaling role of nitric oxide. So you can see that it is quite a helpful thing to have at it’s proper levels. But in this article we’re talking about it’s usefulness for peripheral vascular disease so let’s get back to that.

NO for peripheral vascular disease:

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NO promotes healthy dilation of the veins and arteries so blood can move throughout your body.

Plus, it prevents red blood cells from sticking together to create dangerous clots and blockages.

Your body naturally generates NO in the endothelium that line the blood vessel walls.

But, in the early stages of arterial disease, this lining is damaged—which chokes off the production of NO, making the vessels vulnerable to inflammation and other negative factors.

So, How Do We Protect and Stimulate Nitric Oxide?

Exercise is beneficial, but not extreme activity along the lines of marathon running as severe exercise creates more oxidative stress. Exercising muscles require extra oxygen and nutrients, and this prompts endothelial nitric oxide release, which relaxes the arteries and increases blood flow. Regular physical activity keeps these mechanisms in shape and protects against disease and aging of the vascular system.

Increase Nitric Oxide Levels With Dietary Changes:

Be aware that high-fat, high-carb diets increase blood levels of asymmetric dimethyl-arginine (ADMA), a naturally occurring inhibitor of nitric oxide production. Yet another reason for clean eating.

Because nitric oxide is synthesized from the amino acid arginine, dietary recommendations for boosting nitric oxide often include protein-rich meat and poultry.

But recent research suggests that vegetables may be even better.

Plant foods, particularly beets and leafy greens like kale, arugula, and spinach, are rich in compounds that stimulate the production of nitric oxide.

Another way to up your intake of dietary nitrates is to drink beet juice.

Studies have shown that two cups a day can lower blood pressure, increase stamina during exercise, and boost blood flow to the brain, heart and extremities.

Another way to increase nitric oxide is through diet, most notably by consuming the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline. Arginine, which can be found in fruits, nuts, dairy and meats  directly creates nitric oxide and citrulline inside your cells. L-Citrulline is then recycled back into arginine, making even more nitric oxide.

We can protect the enzymes responsible for increasing nitric oxide via these compounds by consuming healthy foods and antioxidants, like fruits, garlic, vitamins C and E, Co-Q10, and alpha lipoic acid. Nitric oxide only lasts a few seconds in the body, so the more antioxidants you consume, the more stable it will be and the longer it will last.

What about supplements?

Any supplements with decrease oxidative stress (antioxidants) or decrease inflammation (curcumin, fish oils, green tea, etc.) are helpful. But specifically increasing your NO through supplementation can be life altering in terms of functionality increase and pain decrease.

These supplements include things like l-arginine (do not take this “alone”), grape and apple extracts, quercetin, ginko biloba, l-citrulline (as referenced above when discussing diet) , creatine and pomegranate extract.  All will increase your NO.

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