Southcoast Health treats peripheral artery disease with supervised exercise

Southcoast Health is offering a non-surgical way to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD) through structured exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

The Peripheral Artery Disease Supervised Exercise Program of Southcoast Health provides 12 weeks of exercise and education for people who suffer from intermittent leg pain due to PAD.

PAD is a common circulatory problem caused when fatty deposits narrow the arteries, a condition known as artherosclerosis, and limit blood flow to the limbs. That can result in cramping or pain in the legs when patients walk.

Joyce Grusmark, MS, PT, Southcoast Health Regional Manager for Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, said people should pay attention to those symptoms and others, such as leg numbness, shiny and discolored skin on the legs, sore toes and wounds that won’t heal. Patients who have PAD likely have artherosclerosis elsewhere in the body, including in the arteries of the heart, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Surgery is the traditional treatment for PAD, but evidence increasingly shows it responds to exercise, proper diet and quitting smoking, as well as managing diabetes in patients who have it, Grusmark said.

Patients attend three weekly classes of 45 to 60 minutes each, offered throughout the day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The sessions are held at the Southcoast Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Outpatient Program at Narragansett Mills, in Fall River, St. Luke’s Hospital, in New Bedford, and Tobey Hospital, in Wareham.

A multi-disciplinary team of health professionals designs an exercise program for each participant, monitors heart rate, pain, blood pressure, pain and blood glucose levels during exercise, and provides information on how healthy eating and exercise can slow the progression of PAD, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Medicare and most insurance policies cover the program. Patients who are interested can call their primary care physician for a referral or call Southcoast Health directly at 508-973-5435.