Wipe out crippling leg pain with this step-by-step strategy

What do you recommend for peripheral artery disease?

Dr. Fred:

I have to admit—peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a tough problem to solve.

Because at the moment, lifestyle changes are usually the best answer that even mainstream medicine has to offer.

Now on one level, this approach represents a refreshing change of pace. But PAD presents some unique challenges that make it difficult to make the changes that can provide the relief you so desperately need.

In a nutshell, PAD restricts the arteries leading to your limbs—blocking nutrient, oxygen, and blood flow. It’s not quite the urgent health crisis that coronary artery disease is. (When blood flow is blocked to your heart, you have a heart attack and die.)

But as you already know, it can erode your quality of life just as quickly.

Leg pain and cramping—a phenomenon called “intermittent claudication”—is the most notorious hallmark of PAD. It can result from even a short stroll around the block. And it can be downright crippling.

So it can be pretty frustrating when you’re told that you need to move more in order to improve your condition.

This is good advice, of course—I give to patients myself. But I also always offer some additional recommendations that can steer you toward recovery—and get you back on your feet, comfortably.

Of course, a healthy diet—like my New Hamptons Health Miracle, which includes lots of healthy fats and oils from sources like avocado and macadamia nut—is an essential first step.

But with PAD, there are additional factors you need to address too. Most importantly, you want to boost circulation. This means keeping your platelets slippery so they can make it through your blood vessels freely. And in order do that, I recommend a handful of key supplements:

  • Pycnogenol—200 mg per day
  • Fish oil—3 grams per day of EPA and DHA
  • Vitamin E—1,200 IU per day of a full-spectrum product that includes tocotrienols and tocopherols
  • Ginkgo biloba—120 mg per day
  • Turmeric—250 mg per day
  • Citrus bioflavonoids (250 mg of diosmin, 25 mg of hesperidin, and 50 mg of quercetin, in two or three divided doses over the course of the day)
  • Magnesium orotate (60 mg per day, depending on your individual needs)

Another solution you might want to try? Chocolate. Yes, really.

As part of a recent study, researchers recruited 20 men and women with PAD. These subjects gave blood samples and then participated in walking challenges over the course of two days.

First, the subjects walked as far as they could on a treadmill, while researchers recorded times and distances. Then the researchers gave the subjects a snack of roughly 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate.

Two hours later, the subjects hopped on the treadmill again. And results showed that they were able to walk for 17 seconds longer and nearly 40 feet farther than they did before.

The subjects also had fewer signs of inflammatory oxidative stress. As well as higher levels of nitric oxide (NO). And as you might recall, NO is essential for relaxing and widening arteries, which, in turn, increases circulation to every part of your body.

So it’s no wonder that this “treatment” delivered measurable improvements in PAD patients. Though it’s worth noting that the same regimen delivered zero improvements when researchers substituted milk chocolate for polyphenol-rich, 85-percent cocoa dark chocolate.

In other words, a Hershey bar isn’t going to do the trick here. You need a high-quality cocoa product to replicate these results. (Or to get any of chocolate’s best benefits, for that matter. And as I explained back in the August issue, there are a lot of them.)

In combination, all of these strategies should make a huge difference to peripheral circulation—and ultimately, to your comfort and ability to exercise.

And once you start adding regular physical activity into the mix—even if it’s just a short 20 minute walk after dinner every evening—there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sideline PAD symptoms permanently.

But as they say, one step at a time.


“Dark chocolate acutely improves walking autonomy in patients with peripheral artery disease.” J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Jul 2;3(4). pii: e001072.