Harvard Heart Letter

Exercise equals angioplasty for leg pain

The slow-but-steady approach has benefits the quick fix can't offer.

Leg pain brought on by walking or other activity, what doctors call intermittent claudication, is caused by the same process that underlies most heart disease and stroke — the accumulation of cholesterol-laden plaque in artery walls. As with heart disease, intermittent claudication can be treated with bypass surgery, artery-opening angioplasty, or a combination of exercise and drug therapy. And as with heart disease, research suggests that the slow-but-steady exercise approach is at least as good as faster-working angioplasty.

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