Optimal exercise programs for patients with peripheral artery disease

Currently, more than 230,000 people in Ireland are affected by peripheral artery disease (PAD),  a condition that causes blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the legs. And most (161,000) don’t know they have the disease. Those living with PAD suffer discomfort such as aching, cramping or fatigue leg muscles that comes with exertion such as walking and are quickly relieved by rest. This can cause significant physical activity and mobility limitations. Structured exercise therapy is one of the most effective therapies to improve symptoms of PAD and is recommended as a first-line intervention.

The American Heart Association recently published a statement, chaired by Dr. Diane Treat-Jacobson with the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, that summarizes how PAD is treated through exercise therapy.


Diane Treat-Jacobson, Ph.D. 
“Structured exercise therapy can significantly improve the symptoms of PAD, allowing patients to walk further without discomfort and increase the distance they can walk without having to stop. It is also a very cost-effective therapy and national patient care guidelines recommend it as a first-line therapy for patients with symptomatic PAD.

“AHA’s scientific statement is particularly important, given that in 2017 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a national coverage determination for patients with symptomatic PAD. This means that, for the first time, insurance will pay for this therapy.

“This is prompting centers across the country who are already providing exercise therapy for patients with cardiac and pulmonary disease to develop programs specifically for patients with PAD. This scientific statement highlights the evidence supporting that decision and provides guidance for clinicians and therapists who are developing such programs.”

Diane Treat-Jacobson, Ph.D., RN, is a professor and the associate dean for research in the School of Nursing. She is also a member of the Adult and Gerontological Health Cooperative Unit and the Center for Aging Science and Care Innovation. Dr. Treat-Jacobson’s research is focused on promoting awareness, timely identification and improved treatment for the patients who suffer from PAD. She is recognized as a national and international expert in the development and implementation of exercise interventions for patients with symptomatic PAD and in the assessment of outcomes documenting the effects of these interventions.

Treat-Jacobson is the project director of PAD Prairie Initiative at the School of Nursing, which partners with rural community members to diagnose, treat and educate health care providers, patients and the public about PAD.

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