What are the treatment options for atherosclerosis/peripheral arterial disease/peripheral vascular disease?

Atherosclerosis treatments include lifestyle changes, medications and procedures, both nonsurgical and surgical.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Atherosclerosis/Peripheral Arterial Disease/Peripheral Vascular Disease

Lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes can reduce your risk factors that lead to development of atherosclerosis or plaque blocking your arteries. Changes you can make to reduce your risk include:

  • Quit smoking. Cleveland Clinic offers smoking cessation programs.
  • Eat a balanced diet that is high in fiber and low in cholesterol, fat and sodium. Limit fat to 30 percent of your total daily calories. Saturated fat should account for no more than 7 percent of your total calories. Avoid trans fats including products made with partially-hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils. If you are overweight, losing weight will help you lower your total cholesterol and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. A registered dietitian can help you make the right dietary changes.
  • Exercise. Begin a regular exercise program, such as walking. Walking is very important and can aid the treatment of PAD. Patients who walk regularly can expect a marked improvement in the distance they are able to walk before experiencing leg pain. Ask your doctor if your hospital or clinic offers a structured, supervised walking program to help you succeed and maximize your exercise efforts.
  • Manage other related health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.


May be recommended to treat conditions such as high blood pressure (anti-hypertensive medications) or high cholesterol (statin medications).

  • An antiplatelet medication such as aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) may be prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Often, patients may be prescribed both of these medications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack or stroke.
  • Cilostazol (Pletal) may be prescribed to improve walking distance. This medication has been shown to help some people with intermittent claudication exercise longer before they develop leg pain and to walk longer before they must stop because of the pain. However, not all patients are eligible to take this medication, and in some situations, other therapies can provide better relief of your leg pain. Your doctor will tell you if you are eligible.

When is a procedure to improve the flow to the leg for atherosclerosis/PAD/PVD necessary?

When lifestyle changes and medication may not be enough to improve your symptoms, or if your disease has advanced, your physician may recommend surgical or minimally invasive treatments. The choice of the treatment depends upon the pattern and extent of the blockages as well as other factors, such as your general health and the presence of other medical conditions.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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