Yoga and peripheral artery disease

New pilot program aims to treat PAD by increasing circulation

woman-yoga-poseThe number of adults with peripheral artery disease (PAD) is expected to increase significantly over the next several decades as the American population ages.

PAD is a disease of the peripheral arteries, most commonly in the pelvis and legs. In cases of PAD, plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs and limbs. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body. Peripheral arterial disease normally affects the arteries in the legs, but it also can affect the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys and stomach.

People with peripheral arterial disease have four to five times more risk of heart attack or stroke and, when left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation.

PAD treatments

Several treatments, including medications and lifestyle changes, may slow or stop the PAD and reduce the risk of complications and associated pain. PAD guidelines indicate that regular physical activity is recommended for patients with lower extremity PAD, with walking programs proving to be successful for many patients. Arm exercises and low-intensity exercise also improve blood flow, which results in lower blood pressure and better vascular health.

Yoga and peripheral artery disease: About the program

Based on these findings, Dr. Caroline Richardson and I have developed a pilot yoga program for adult PAD patients. The program consists of a weekly 60-minute class, similar to current classes in the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center cardiac rehab program and using the same certified yoga instructors. Hatha yoga is a low-intensity activity that can be safely modified for participants with limitations. Sessions include a warm-up period, instructor-led series of yoga poses (modified as needed) followed by a cool-down period. Each participant must also practice yoga poses and breathing techniques at home 3 to 5 days per week.

Am I eligible for the Frankel CVC Pilot Yoga Program?

The program is currently accepting two or three patients every two months. Patients must have a documented PAD diagnosis and must be experiencing symptoms such as cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Often, the pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again. The symptoms of PAD are often mistaken for something else, so it is important to know what to look for.

If you think you are experiencing PAD symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your healthcare professional.


For more information about the yoga pilot program, call 734-998-7411.


Dr. Elizabeth Jackson is Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. She serves as an attending cardiologist the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center with emphasis in women’s cardiovascular health and cardiovascular prevention.





University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.