Monte Verbeek of Waverly had dealt with leg pain for years.
He just thought it was part of getting older until he was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD) in his legs two years ago.
Peripheral artery disease is a disease of the blood vessels outside the heart. The condition is caused by a narrowing of vessels that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body. With lower extremity PAD (the most common type of PAD), blood flow is reduced to the legs and feet so you don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. The most common symptoms include numbness and weakness, cramping, fatigue, aching, pain or discomfort in the legs and buttocks. The symptoms occur during activity and usually go away with rest. Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and limb amputation.
Monte wasn’t big on going to the doctor but as the pain worsened, he thought he should go to figure out what could be done.
His primary care provider referred him to a cardiologist, who ran a series of tests and determined that Monte’s left leg had a 70% blockage and his right leg had a 40% blockage. The recommended primary treatment for people with PAD (before a stent or by-pass surgery), is the supervised exercise training (SET) for PAD program. It is billable through most insurances with a physician referral and takes place at an accredited cardiac rehabilitation program.
“Studies have consistently shown that exercise training for participants with peripheral artery disease and intermittent pain/cramping, increases their walking distances, quality of life and overall functional capacity,” stated Michelle Litterer, registered nurse in Waverly Health Center’s cardiac rehab program.
Monte started the SET PAD program at WHC in February 2021. He attended three, one-hour weekly sessions for 12 weeks.
“Each member of the cardiac rehab staff had their own niche,” Monte said. “Nicholle Knoblock helped me with my smoking habit. I wanted to push myself physically, and Rebecca Carpenter was there to help. Michelle taught me not only about exercise, but the importance of nutrition.”
As a result of cardiac rehab, Monte has since increased his fruit and vegetable intake. He also looks at the calories on food labels at the grocery store now, which he’d never done before. Monte used to be a heavy soda drinker, so the staff had him switch to water and Gatorade®.
Symptoms can often decrease the distance you can walk, and can negatively affect your ability to function at home and at work.
“Prior to rehab, I had no endurance,” Monte said. “I really thought my leg was done. I could barely walk a block without my leg cramping. I love outdoor activities and my fishing was restricted to fishing off the bridge.”
Monte was soon back to turkey hunting in the morning, where he’d typically walk about two miles. Then he’d go to cardiac rehab at WHC, three days a week and walk another two miles on the treadmill and also lift weights.
“My sleeping has improved and my body feels so much better overall,” Monte said. “I’m just so amazed by how much the staff has been able to help me. I feel so good when I leave there. I still have some pain in my leg, but nothing like before.”
Check with your doctor about getting a referral to WHC’s supervised exercise training for PAD program.