Why would a cardiologist want to ask you about your feet? The reason is that one of the common conditions cardiologists treat has nothing directly to do with the heart itself, but rather with blockages of blood vessels going to the legs and feet, as well as the kidneys, stomach, and arms. You may know it as “poor blood circulation,” a phrase often used in the ads you see on television.
An estimated 200 million people worldwide are affected by peripheral artery disease, and its incidence increases with age. About one-fifth of people age 70 and older have peripheral artery disease, and it's the third leading cause of cardiovascular related deaths. The condition is sometimes called a smoker’s disease because it’s particularly prominent among people who have smoked at some point in their lives. Diabetes and high blood pressure are also common risk factors.
What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral blood circulation problems are typically due to the buildup of plaque in the arterial walls. It's similar to the kind of buildup we see in the coronary arteries that feed the heart or the carotid arteries leading to the brain. The result of this plaque buildup is restricted blood flow, discomfort, tiredness, heaviness, and cramping.
In the early stages of peripheral artery disease, patients commonly complain of cramping and fatigue in the legs and buttocks during activities like walking. Because the symptoms tend to subside when the person sits down, we refer to the problem as intermittent claudication.
Yet, the problem with peripheral artery disease is that about half of the people who have it don't even know that they're affected. So, a smart cardiologist will also look for more subtle signs, including hair loss on the legs and feet, slow growing toe nails, feet that feel cold, or legs that are pale or shiny in appearance.
How Do You Treat Peripheral Artery Disease?
To improve blood circulation, doctors often use the drugs advertised in the ads I mentioned earlier. Angioplasty or surgery is also sometimes necessary. But what I have found is that many patients who don't have major obstructions remain symptomatic after surgery. The reason is that they often have small vessel disease.
So, I like to take a metabolic cardiology approach to peripheral artery disease, which includes:
- A good multivitamin formula,
- Coenzyme Q10 (100-300 mg daily) and magnesium (200-600 mg daily) to support endothelial function,
- L-carnitine (1-3 grams daily) to help clear out metabolic waste that can cause small blood vessels to constrict,
- D-ribose (5 grams, three times daily),
- Omega-3s (1-2 grams of fish or squid oil daily).
It's also important to focus on the muscle cells. That's because as muscles are used, they burn energy and release waste. This waste causes the cells in the muscles to swell and press against adjacent blood vessels. In a person whose arteries are already compromised by plaque buildup, the swelling causes further vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the vessels. Worse yet, the toxins themselves have a vasoconstricting effect of their own—so you’re hit with a triple whammy of sorts. The more toxins that accumulate, the worse the condition gets and the more difficult it becomes to walk.
The solution is to help remove the toxins. To do this, I suggest taking 1 gram daily of glycine propionyl-L-carnitine (GPLC), a form of L-carnitine that’s proven to help improve blood circulation and blood pressure levels, as well as offsetting the destructive nature of inflammatory compounds, cellular waste products, and toxins. Earthing can also help by boosting circulation.
Now it's your turn: Have you found a solution that has helped with peripheral artery disease?