Peripheral Artery Disease

Lifestyle & Management

Stop Smoking

Compared to patients with peripheral artery disease who continued to smoke, those who quit were less likely to die or need an amputation in the next five years. Your healthcare provider can connect you with programs to help you quit smoking.


Exercise improves symptoms and reduces death from peripheral artery disease, and is the most effective treatment for pain that comes and goes. The goal is to eventually be able to exercise for 45 minutes a day, 3-5 days per week. Your exercise plans should alternate activity and rest—you will walk until the pain starts, then rest until it passes, and then walk again, repeating this cycle for 45 minutes. Eventually you will find you can walk a longer and longer before having pain. This type of exercise program is most effective if it is done in a supervised setting. If this kind of formal program isn’t possible, your healthcare provider can help you plan a program you can do on your own at home or at a gym. (See more in the Physical Activity section.) 

Foot Care

Good foot care is important in improving symptoms and quality of life, and preventing the need for amputation. This is especially important for patients with peripheral artery disease who also have diabetes and experience loss of sensation in the feet.

  • Wear properly fitted, supportive shoes with padding or shoe inserts to prevent blisters and ulcers.
  • Prevent infection by washing your feet daily and drying thoroughly, especially between the toes. Use moisturizer to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed; your healthcare provider may have you see a podiatrist to avoid injury if you have difficulty clipping your toenails.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have any sores or injuries to your feet.


Eat a diet low in saturated and trans-fats to reduce the cholesterol and fat levels in your blood, which lead to plaques and blockages in your blood vessels. High-fat foods include dairy (such as cheese, yogurt, and milk) eggs, and meat. These foods are high in fat even if they are marketed as “lean.” Focus your diet on more servings of fruit, vegetables (steamed or raw), and healthy carbohydrates (e.g., potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans/legumes, and squash). (See more in the Nutrition section.)

Last Updated August 2020