Peripheral vascular disease PVD is a condition characterised by narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the legs. Mild cases may cause nothing more than sluggish circulation and cold feet.
However, as the disease progresses, it may give rise to more serious complications, such as ulcers and pain in the calf muscles when walking.
Ultimately, PVD can lead to gangrene and may mean the amputation of toes, the foot or lower leg.
This month, the medical journal Circulation published a study which found that PVD is associated with low levels of vitamin C in the body. This suggests that a good intake of it may help prevent or slow down the development of PVD.
If this is the case, then vitamin C represents just one of a range of natural approaches that may be of use. Here, we look at some of the most effective treatments.
The arteries supply blood to the organs. In time, arteries can become blocked with a fat-like substance in a process called atherosclerosis.
If this happens in the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle it may lead to angina heart pain and heart attack, while in the vessels supplying blood to the brain it may ultimately lead to strokes.
When atherosclerosis affects the arteries in the legs, PVD is the result. One of the common manifestations of this condition is intermittent claudication, when the calf muscles become starved of oxygen, leading to pain.
Treatment options are limited and mainly revolve around the expansion of the narrowed portions of artery with a balloon angioplasty or surgery.
Studies have shown that regular exercise, such as walking on a treadmill, can reduce disability caused by intermittent claudication. Walking is thought to stimulate the opening of blood vessels in the lower legs.
Recent research links low levels of vitamin C to an increased risk of PVD. One theory is that, through its antioxidant effect, vitamin C protects cholesterol from damaging changes oxidation that make it much more likely to leave sediment on the artery wall.
Nobel Prize-winning scientist and ardent vitamin C advocate Linus Pauling believed vitamin C helps keep the lining of the arteries strong and healthy.
A lack of it may lead to damage and leakiness of the artery walls. Pauling suggested that in an effort to repair the damage, the body deposits fat on the artery wall – the basic process that leads to atherosclerosis.
Taking between mg and ,mg of vitamin C twice a day is likely to offer protection.
Another nutrient that may help is vitamin E. It has been shown to thin the blood which passes more effectively through narrowed vessels. Sufferers may benefit from daily doses of between and iu.
Herbal medicine offers a number of approaches. Ginkgo biloba, renowned for its blood-flow enhancing effect, is one.
Studies of intermittent claudi-cation concluded that a daily dose of between and mg of standardised extract led to a significant increase in the distance sufferers could walk.
Garlic mg a day has also been shown to increase walking distance in similar circumstances. It has been suggested that this is related to garlic s blood-thinning properties.
Another scientifically proven treatment for intermittent claudication is Padma . This blend of Tibetan herbs has been used in Europe to treat PVD for almost years. It is available in most health food stores.