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Walking Is Good for Blocked Leg Arteries
Date:1/13/2009

Study shows value of exercise in treating peripheral arterial disease

TUESDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Anyone looking for proof that a planned program of walking is good for people with the leg blood-vessel blockage called peripheral arterial disease (PAD) should check the results of a new U.S. government-funded study.

The study of 156 people with PAD -- many of whom didn't have the pain that is the classic symptom of artery blockage -- showed that regular six-minute walks on a treadmill improved their endurance and quality of life.

While walking is a standard recommendation for people with PAD, the study was different in two ways, said study lead author Dr. Mary M. McDermott, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"All prior studies have focused on patients with intermittent claudicating -- the symptom of PAD," McDermott said. "Some of the patients in this study were asymptomatic. Also, we included testing of leg strength. This is the largest trial to do so."

The findings were published in the Jan. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Over the six months of the study, the participants who did their regular six-minute treadmill walks increased their walking distance by about 69 feet, while those who did not walk regularly saw a decrease of 49 feet.

There are several reasons for the increase in performance, said Ronald Terjung, professor of physiology at the University of Missouri, who has done a series of animal studies that looked at the basic science involved with PAD.

"There is the potential for greater oxygen extraction from the blood under maximum exercise conditions," Terjung said. "The muscles can make better use of blood flow and the oxygen release that comes from it."

The animal studies also showed that such exercise leads to improvement in "collateral circul
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