The holidays are a great time for family and friends to show support for those with vascular diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD), restricted blood flow in the arteries around the heart that restricts blood flow, peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is restricted blood flow in the leg arteries due to plaque build-up, also chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), diabetes, and Raynaud’s Syndrome. Hosts Kym McNicholas and Dr. John Phillips, along with guest co-hosts Nurse Practitioner Kay Smith and Revitalist CEO Kathryn Walker offer some innovative ideas to help with mental well-being, exercise regimens, health monitoring and more.
The show kicked off with a candid discussion about the best gift any family, friend, or healthcare team member can give someone suffering from any chronic illness, and that is the gift of HOPE. It doesn’t cost a thing yet is one of the most valuable gifts to give and receive. Words are powerful and can make all the difference in the world in a patient’s mental well-being. So, this holiday season, start with the gift of hope.
Gifts that help with mental health
HeartMath is a helpful tool that’s clinically proven to help with mental well-being for those suffering with chronic illnesses, particularly CAD patients. It’s a series of video training modules that offer a unique window into the quality of communication between the heart and the brain, which directly impacts how we feel and perform. HeartMath Institute Research has found that heartfelt emotions generate an optimal psychophysiological state called, “coherence,’ which is associated with improvements in well-being and performance. The training modules are easy to watch free on Youtube. You can include a link to them in an online card to your loved one over the holidays. But on the website, the organization also sells an Inner Balance Trainer, which clips on to the ear lobe to measure and analyze the heart rhythm, so that users can get instant feedback and see in real-time how the heart can impact the brain, and the importance of synchronizing your heart, mind, and body.
Gifts that offer health metrics
Dr. Phillips talks about the value of giving gifts that help patients monitor their health. He says everyone can benefit from the gift of blood pressure cuffs and oximeters as being great gifts as well as the smart watches at any price level that can give insight into heart activity. Revitalist CEO Kathryn Walker talks about the Oura Ring, which is a type of health tracker that monitors vital signs such as heart rate, steps and body temperature. It’s different from other trackers because it’s worn on your finger like a ring rather than on your wrist. Lower cost options are available on various shopping platforms.
Gifts that offer comfort
Patients with vascular diseases typically have circulation issues that can cause feet, hands, and the entire body colder than the average person. Heating pads, battery operated socks that heat-up, warm comfy slippers, gloves or mittens, and scarves are always helpful. Nurse Practitioner warns that with socks, make sure to choose ones that are looser fitting such as diabetic socks for grander comfort. Compression socks are typically prescribed for those diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency, but not always indicated for those with peripheral artery disease. It’s always good to check with the intended recipient before picking up a pair or two. But a great brand for compression socks or general ankle socks that are fun for vascular patients is Flow Socks, designed by vascular technologist Jill Sommerset, because they have images of the arteries across the foot and leg. Wearing them to the doctor could help with a more comprehensive discussion about a patient’s circulation issues. For patients who have lost a limb due to vascular diseases, No Limbits offers modified apparel, especially pants to accommodate prosthetics.
Gifts that help improve circulation
Exercise is critical to improve circulation. P.A.D. Warrior and exercise guru Monique shares some items that could help to motivate those with vascular issues to get moving! They include:
- Treadmills - Any powered treadmill with a 4 foot walking pad. The better the brand the better the cushioning but I don’t want to pump up any brand. What is more important is that they walk. Look for one with a safety feature and a heart rate monitor are helpful. I am personally not a fan of folding treadmills cause it makes a treadmill be unseen. An unseen treadmill does not get used. It is similar to putting a guitar in a closet. It never gets played.
- Bikes - Stationary, spin, outdoor bikes, and under desk foot cycles or elipticals. Stationary bikes have a bigger seat and great for intervals with a treadmill. Spin bikes have smaller seats and are closer to an outdoor bike with the same pedal positioning. Both can do programs, hills, and have different gear levels. For a PAD warrior they are important for them to get into aerobic as aerobic is challenged by walking alone if claudication pain comes in fast in under two minutes. Claudication pain will usually stop them and keep them in an anaerobic state vs the transition to aerobic. With both treadmill and a bike they can mimic this transition and remove the lactic acidosis in muscle faster. For an outdoor bike that bike with a trainer bike stand can be made into an indoor bike for the winter. If they can walk pretty good then they can alternate days to get the benefits of both walking and biking.
- Therabands - They come in different strengths of red, green, blue, and yellow. They are sold in boxes of 100 or 200 yds. Usually 3.5 feet is what a PAD patient would work with and they can use this to train their muscles and strengthen their muscles. Green is a good middle ground that most people can use on both upper and lower legs. They do break so having a box is great cause they just get another 3.5 yards and use it again. Therabands can also be purchased in stores where they give you four strengths in one box. No need for weights. They can do a whole work out and stretch program with just these bands by themselves.
- Kettle bells - They come in different sizes, 2 lb to 40 lb. Small one are great for arm workouts. Bigger one for farmer’s walks that work abs or squats with weight.
- Yoga mats - To give a soft place to do floor work to improve circulation and flexibility.
- Water bottles - To keep hydrated during workouts. Some may want to fill their water bottles with some tonic water as the quinine in it tends to help with leg cramping.
PAD Warrior and PAD Life Outdoors Youtube channel creator Robert Castleberry also joined in the discussion on great gifts for adventure. His favorite item is a set of walking sticks. He says they’re not just for hiking. You can use them on pavement or indoors to help with stability. They’re available at all price levels. He says to make sure you get ones with the rubber tips for versatility. If they don’t come with rubber tips, you can order them separately.
Stocking stuffers for vascular patients
Some great stocking stuffer ideas include plantar fasciitis insoles, heel cups, knee braces, metatarsal pads or toe spaces. These can be problem areas for PAD patients because of tight calves. Tight calves overtime will cause Plantar Fasciitis, clawed toes, fallen arches, Morton’s Neuromas and PAD can cause muscle atrophy of especially the feet. This is the first area where we notice the muscle dwindling. A metatarsal pad can off load tender areas. They should though see their podiatrist and have them place the pads for the best possible outcome as a wrong placement can cause more issues. PAD Warrior Monique explains that as a PAD patient, she has plantar fasciitis insoles in all of her footwear from the gym, to the outdoor shoes, to slippers.. PAD makes standing painful and these help so much with the arch support and extra padding. Lotions for dry feet are also a great idea as a stocking stuff because vascular patients always have dry skin. Try to get ones without dyes or perfumes. Basic vaseline is even great for cracked heels. Sometimes it’s the basic necessities that can be most appreciated because they show you understand what a loved one is going through and you become a part of their healing process. Top off the stocking with a pill container because vascular patients are never short on medications and supplements.
Gifts for healthy eating
The Way To My Heart’s “Food For Thought: A P.A.D. Warrior’s Handbook For Healthier Eating” is available on Amazon.com to help get all vascular patients on track for the new year. Simply search “Peripheral Artery Disease” on Amazon.com to purchase a copy on paperback, hard cover, or on Kindle. You can also put together gift baskets that include fun dairy-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free alternatives versus the traditional fruit cake.
Gifts for vascular disease awareness
PeripheralArteryDisease.shop offers some great finds especially for those with and who treat peripheral artery disease. Of course a quick search online for gifts to tickle your funny bone can reveal some items which may offer the best medicine for those with a sense of humor, laughter. We found mugs, candles, and tshirts with various mantras on sites such as etsy and ebay that offered some unique, creative gift ideas.