Walking Slows Progression of Peripheral Artery Disease

Doing it three times a week fights decreased blood flow in legs, study finds

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TUESDAY, Jan. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People with peripheral artery disease (PAD) who walk three times a week or more have slower disease progression and improved walking ability.

That finding is based on a Northwestern University study that appears in the Jan. 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

People with PAD can suffer leg pain caused by decreased blood flow in the arteries.

The study of 417 women and men found that those who walked for exercise three or more times a week had a significantly smaller average decline in walking speed and distance than people who walked one to two times a week.

The researchers also found that only a small percentage of black study participants walked for exercise three or more times a week. The researchers noted that PAD prevalence is higher in black Americans than in whites, and that previous studies showed that blacks with PAD have greater functional impairment that white PAD patients.

"Data from the study suggest that doctors should take steps to encourage African-American individuals to increase their frequency of walking exercise," study leader Dr. Mary McGrae McDermott, an associate professor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues said that problems with cost or transportation may make it difficult for many PAD patients to attend supervised walking exercise sessions. The researchers said their study suggests that unsupervised walking exercise can also slow PAD progression.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about PAD.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, Jan. 2, 2006

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