It is a condition characterized by obstruction or damage to the blood vessels in the extremities. People with diabetes mellitus are more likely to develop this pathology; so, it is important to maintain healthy habits, among these: a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
The Cardiovascular system - made up of blood, heart, and blood vessels - has the function of transporting nutrients, vitamins, and gases such as oxygen to body tissues, necessary for the proper functioning of the body as a whole.
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) —whose main signs and symptoms are blood clots, inflammation, narrowing, and obstruction of blood vessels — may be preceded by another condition that occurs when fat and cholesterol accumulation occurs in the artery walls of the heart, brain, arms, or legs, called atherosclerosis.
Symptoms usually do not occur in atherosclerosis until, for example, such buildup of plaque (a waxy substance) in the peripheral arteries of the lower body is large enough to obstruct blood supply, causing pain and leg cramps (intermittent claudication).
What is peripheral arterial disease?
There are three main types of blood vessels that are: veins, capillaries, and arteries. The veins are responsible for bringing the blood that has circulated throughout the body back to the heart; capillaries are very small blood vessels that allow the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide), water, nutrients, and waste products between blood and all body systems; and the arteries are the ones that transport oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
According to the Texas Heart Institute, when peripheral vascular disease affects only the arteries, it is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which occurs when the arteries in the feet and legs become narrowed or blocked due to excessive accumulation of grease. Due to this, the blood flow to the lower extremities decreases and the muscles stop receiving enough oxygen for their normal functioning; This leads to circulation conditions that can cause pain.
Relationship between diabetes and peripheral vascular disease
Although on average a third of people with diabetes mellitus over fifty years of age have peripheral vascular disease, most of them do not know they have it. In general, since before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (DM2), a patient may already be presenting involvement of the arteries; among other risk factors, because of:
- Having high blood pressure
- Having abnormal cholesterol levels
- Suffering from coronary heart disease
- Suffering a heart attack or stroke
- Being overweight
- Being sedentary
- Being over 50 years old
- Having a family history of PAD, heart attacks, or strokes
Although type 2 diabetes mellitus is a risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, it is important to know that patients with DM2 can avoid blockage or damage to their peripheral blood vessels by adopting a healthy lifestyle that will also lead them to achieve a better quality of life not only in the present, but also in the future.
How to reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease (PVD)?
Healthy habits such as a balanced diet, regular physical exercise and frequent medical check-ups are vital to avoid conditions such as peripheral vascular disease, and thus be able to enjoy life in the company of our loved ones. Therefore, and to achieve this goal, it is important - among other factors - to consider and apply these recommendations of the American Diabetes Association (ADA):
- If you smoke, talk to your health care team about how you might quit.
- Try to have a glycated hemoglobin equal to or less than 7%.
- Keep your blood pressure less than 140/80 mm Hg.
- Try to have LDL cholesterol levels below 100 mg / dl.
- Maintain a healthy diet: low in sugars, carbohydrates, fats, and sodium; among others.
- Get moderate exercise regularly; at least 30 minutes a day, for five days a week.
- Perform glucometry periodically for proper monitoring of blood glucose control.
Texas Heart Institute [website]. Peripheral vascular disease [accessed April 6, 2020]. Available at: https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/heart-information-center/topics/enfermedad-vascular-periferica/
Sage Journal [website]. 2016 AHA / ACC Guideline on the Management of Patients with Lower Extremity Peripheral Artery Disease: Executive Summary [published May 11, 2017; accessed April 6, 2020]. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1358863X17701592?rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org
American Diabetes Association (ADA) [PDF]. All about peripheral arterial disease [published in 2009; accessed April 7, 2020]. Available at: https://professional.diabetes.org/sites/professional.diabetes.org/files/media/Todo_acerca_de_la_enfermedad_arterial_periferica.pdf
Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) [PDF]. Module 3: The Cardiovascular System [published on October 21, 2015; accessed April 7, 2020]. Available at: http://www.phri.ca/hope4/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Final-3.0_2015-10-21_M%C3%B3dulo-3_E.pdf