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In the journals: Exercise, especially treadmill, eases peripheral artery trouble

In the journals

Exercise, especially treadmill, eases peripheral artery trouble

Regular exercise is good medicine for people whose coronary arteries are narrowed and stiffened by atherosclerosis, the chief cause of heart disease. Atherosclerosis (a buildup of fat- and cholesterol-laden plaque) can also harm arteries elsewhere in the body, including those in the legs and arms, a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). By reducing blood flow to the legs, PAD can cause leg pain with walking and sometimes cramping in the calf muscles that's triggered by walking and stops with rest (claudication).

In light of painful leg symptoms, exercise that works the legs might not seem like the best idea for people with PAD. But a study concludes that they can benefit from treadmill walking and leg resistance training in both physical function and quality of life. Treadmill exercise also appears to boost overall vascular health — an especially important benefit for people with PAD, who are at increased risk for heart attacks and stroke.

In a trial led by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, 156 women and men with PAD (some with and some without claudication) were randomly assigned to supervised treadmill exercise, lower extremity resistance training, or a control group receiving only nutrition information. Subjects were tested before and after the six-month study for changes in six-minute walking performance, a short physical performance battery, brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (a measurement of change in the diameter of the main artery of the upper arm), treadmill walking performance, and quality-of-life measures.

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