Eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, according to new research published in a journal of the American Heart Association. An estimated 8.5 million people in the United States have PAD, with those who have diabetes at high risk of the condition.
In PAD, arteries leading to the legs, feet, and sometimes arms become narrowed, blocking blood flow and causing symptoms such as cramping, pain, or tiredness in the legs when walking or climbing stairs. Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, but how these foods impact PAD is less clear. To determine the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and peripheral arterial disease, researchers looked at dietary data from roughly 3.7 million men and women, with an average age of 65. Approximately 6.3% of the subjects had PAD, and 29.2% indicated they ate three or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. (Current guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend roughly two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables, or approximately nine servings, daily.)
The researchers found that those who reported eating three or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables had an 18% lower risk of PAD than those who reported eating less of these foods. The association between fruit and vegetable consumption and lower PAD risk remained even after accounting for age, gender, race, smoking status, and various cardiovascular risk factors. A low intake of fruits and vegetables was found to have a particularly strong link with PAD in current and former smokers. Older white women were the most likely to report eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day, while younger black men were the least likely.
“Our current study provides important information to the public that something as simple as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet could have a major impact on the prevalence of life-altering peripheral artery disease,” noted study coauthor Jeffrey Berger, MD. “We often remember to take our medication, yet studies like this should remind us to eat our fruits and veggies every day,” he told Reuters Health.
The authors note that their findings confirm American consumption of fruits and vegetables remains very low.
For more information, see the article “Eating More Fruits and Vegetables May Lower Risk of Blockages in Leg Arteries,” or the study’s abstract in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. And to learn more about PAD, read the article “Diabetic Leg Pain and Peripheral Arterial Disease,” by certified diabetes educators Joyce Malaskovitz and Susan Rush Michael.
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