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Q&A with Professor Jonathan Golledge

A program to reduce complications and improve quality of life in people with blocked leg arteries

Professor Jonathan Golledge is Head of the Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease and The Vascular Biology Unit at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University. Professor Golledge received a 2020 Secondary Prevention Strategic Grant to improve outcomes for people with blocked leg arteries.     

What are you currently researching?  

One million Australians have blocked leg arteries (also known as peripheral arterial disease), which can cause severe leg pain, difficulty walking and reduced quality of life.  

Peripheral arterial disease is a type of blood vessel disease. The blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body (including the legs) become narrowed and blocked. This is often due to a build-up of plaque, which is made of fat, cholesterol and other substances. When the blood vessels become blocked, blood and oxygen can’t reach parts of the body (including the legs) as easily. When this happens, people can experience troubling symptoms like leg pain or cramping when walking, loss of function, leg sores that won’t heal and in extreme cases black toes.  

We know that people with blocked leg arteries are also at a high risk of a heart attack and stroke (because artery disease tends to affect multiple arteries). People with this condition also have a high risk of being admitted to hospital, amputation and even death.  

Clinical trials in the past have shown that a range of treatments, including medicines and exercise therapy, can reduce the risk of complications and improve quality of life in people with blocked leg arteries. However, our previous research has shown that these treatments are often not well-implemented.  

We have developed a holistic medical and rehabilitation program (known as PAD-medical) that includes personalised treatment sessions delivered via telehealth. Sessions focus on:  

  • Managing risk factors.
  • Optimising prescribed medicines.
  • Supervised exercise and encouraging physical activity.  

This randomised controlled trial will test how effective PAD-medical is in reducing cardiovascular disease risk and improving quality of life and function in people with blocked leg arteries. If shown to be effective, we will aim to roll the program out to the wider community.  

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?  

My research program aims to improve outcomes for people with blood vessel disease, including those with blocked leg arteries. I also work as a vascular (blood vessel) doctor treating people with diseased blood vessels. Through our research, we aim to find new treatments to improve outcomes for people with these conditions. I hope my research can make a significant improvement to people's quality of life and reduce the risk of serious complications.  

What motivated you to do your research?

As a vascular doctor, I see the serious complications that can happen in people with blood vessel disease. People living with blood vessel disease face a lot of complications and health problems. I am motivated to improve the current treatments for people with blood vessel disease through my impactful research.

Are there any recent achievements or discoveries you can share with us?

We have identified several ways to improve outcomes for people with blood vessel disease. These include finding new ways to use existing medicines and new holistic rehabilitation programs. We are now testing these in clinical trials and hope they will help improve the lives of people living with blood vessel disease.

What role has Heart Foundation funding had in your career journey?

Without this funding, it is impossible to perform the critical research needed to identify new treatments and methods to improve outcomes for people living with blood vessel disease. There is currently a very limited amount of funding available. The support from the Heart Foundation is absolutely key and I am so grateful to all donors. Their support makes important research like this possible.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

Thank you for all the support; it would be impossible to perform high-quality research without it. With this support, it will be possible over time to improve outcomes for people with blood vessel disease.

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