A recent study shows that including more fruits and vegetables in your diet may help keep your leg arteries free of blockages. That’s good news for patients who suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD).
People with peripheral artery disease have narrowing of the leg arteries. This limits blood flow to the muscles and makes it difficult or painful to walk or stand.
A change to a healthy diet has been long recommended for patients with PAD. However, researchers in the recent study specifically targeted the increase of fruits and vegetables and how it reduces the chances of peripheral vascular disease.
Researchers from New York University School of Medicine analyzed data from 3.7 million people, average age 64. They found that those who ate three or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had an 18 percent reduced risk of peripheral artery disease.
The findings were published earlier this year in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. The research was partially funded by the National Heart and Lung Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Previous studies have linked lower fruit and vegetable intake with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. However, there has been little research into the connection between fruit and vegetable consumption and peripheral artery disease. Only an association, rather than a cause-and-effect link has been studied.
“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,” said study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Berger.
Peripheral Arterial Disease Dietary Changes
In addition to increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables several other dietary changes may help. The Advanced Heart and Vascular Institute recommends reducing your fat and sodium intake. The institute says some cholesterol in your diet is healthy. However, LDL “bad” cholesterol can build up inside the arterial walls, blocking blood flow. This increases your risk for peripheral arterial disease. Diet and exercise can help reduce LDL cholesterol buildup.
Triglycerides are also fats in the bloodstream and used for energy. Like cholesterol, having a certain amount of triglycerides is a healthy. But too many triglycerides can lead to heart disease and PAD. Completely eliminating fat is not recommended. So, when you do eat fat, eat a PAD-friendly diet that includes unsaturated fats like fish, nuts, and seeds. Avoid foods high in saturated fats (red meat, butter, and whole milk).
Sodium is another top dietary culprit behind PAD. However, eliminating sodium is about more than replacing your saltshaker with low-sodium seasonings. It’s also important to cut back on your intake of processed meats, fast food, and other processed foods.
Combining a healthy diet with exercise also helps to reduce the symptoms of PAD, which may include pain, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the leg muscles. Symptoms also may include cramping in the affected leg(s) and in the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. Symptoms may ease after resting. These symptoms are called intermittent claudication.
For additional information about peripheral artery disease, please contact the medical professionals at Coastal Vascular Center.