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Listen to Your Legs


Carlos Neves, MD, a board-certified vascular surgeon with Beebe Vascular, shares information about how PAD affects patients and how quitting smoking can help protect you from the disease.


What is PAD?

PAD (peripheral artery disease) is caused by lack of blood flow to the legs and feet, usually resulting from plaque build-up in the arteries. As the walls of your arteries narrow and bloodflow is constricted, this plaque build-up can become brittle and inflamed, and can ultimately lead to blockages, says Dr. Neves. 

Age and smoking are two of the biggest factors for this disease. Most patients who are diagnosed with PAD are over age 60 and are or have been a smoker. Although patients can be as young as age 40—often the younger the diagnosis, the more extreme the case tends to be. According to Dr. Neves, most cases are treated with lifestyle changes or medicine, but more extreme forms call for surgery and can sometimes lead to limb loss.


What’s the link between smoking and PAD?

Simply put, smoking increases the plaque inflammation that can lead to blockages in your arteries. If you stop smoking, you won’t reverse the disease, but you will prevent further damage from occurring and/or protect yourself from developing the disease down the road. 

Dr. Neves encourages his patients who are trying to quit smoking to change their lifestyle. Step one is to avoid spending time with other smokers. It’s very unlikely that you will say no to a cigarette if your friends are smoking around you, so you have to make the conscious choice to avoid it altogether. 

There are also a variety of support resources available to help smokers quit. Beebe offers smoking cessation counseling, and smokers who have used the Delaware Quitline (866-409-1858) have found it to be very beneficial. Learn more.

Overall, you must remind yourself daily to stay motivated. No matter how difficult changing your lifestyle may seem today, making healthy choices to safeguard yourself from harmful vascular diseases like PAD down the road is worth the fight. 

PAD Symptoms Include: 

  • Pain or numbness
  • Weakness and fatigue 
  • Prolonged foot wounds
  • Cold legs
  • Discolored toes or nails

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of the Beacon.