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Strength Training May Help Artery Disease

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December 8, 2004

A Northwestern University researcher is conducting a clinical study to determine whether regular exercise can improve leg and ankle functioning in participants with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition similar to coronary artery disease, where fatty deposits on the walls of arteries block blood flow to the legs and feet.

Mary McGrae McDermott, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, is principal investigator on the study.

PAD is caused by the same risk factors as coronary artery disease: older age, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. People with PAD are at significant risk for heart attack and stroke. Some individuals with PAD experience claudication, a fatigue, discomfort or pain in the leg muscles that occurs after walking short distances and stops when the person stands still.

However, previous research by McDermott and others showed that most people with PAD experience no symptoms or have leg symptoms other than claudication.

McDermott also found that persons with PAD who do not have intermittent claudication have significantly impaired lower extremity functioning compared to individuals without claudication.

In the Northwestern study, eligible participants with documented PAD will be randomized into one of three study arms: a supervised treadmill exercise training program; a supervised progressive resistance training program; or a nutrition control group, who will attend a series of group discussions and lectures on a variety of nutrition topics.

Participants in the supervised progressive resistance training program will work one-on-one with a strength trainer to strengthen leg muscles.

Examples of the nutrition topics include: how to read food labels; de-salting your diet; truth about fad diets; dietary supplements, cooking for one or two; and osteoporosis.

After six months of on-site exercise training, participants in the exercise arms will be moved to a six-month home exercise program to determine whether gains made during supervised training can be maintained in a home environment.

For information on the PAD study, call (312) 695-2394.

Topics: Research