Eating a Plant-Based Diet Can Prevent Peripheral Artery Disease

green-pears_mediumThe more researchers investigate plant-based diets, the clearer it becomes that this way of eating improves your health and wellness by virtually every measure out there.

Now, a new study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, an American Heart Association journal, found that eating three or more servings of vegetable and fruits daily can significantly lower your risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Defining PAD, or Peripheral Artery Disease

Scientists already knew that individuals who eat diets low in vegetables and fruits have an increased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke, but little attention had been paid to the specific impact of produce consumption on PAD, a condition that occurs when plaque collects in arteries that carry blood to your head … organs … and limbs.

PAD typically affects blood flow to your legs, which can cause pain and numbness. It can also increase the chances that you’ll develop an infection in the affected limb (or limbs), and in extreme cases, it can even lead to gangrene—tissue death—which may require amputation.

A key early warning sign of PAD is leg pain while walking or climbing stairs. People sometimes mistakenly attribute this pain to aging, but the real reason for it could be PAD. If you’re experiencing leg pain, experts recommend that you consult with a trusted medical professional to evaluate whether you might have this condition.

A Simple Way to Reduce Your Risk of PAD

The findings published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology came from the health records of over 3.7 million people collected from more than 20,000 sites across the sliced-watermelon_facebookUnited States! Each participant completed medical and lifestyle surveys as well as ankle brachial index tests, which uses blood pressure readings to assess PAD status. The researchers found that individuals who reported eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily had 18 percent lower odds of developing PAD.

Nearly 64 percent of participants were women, which is encouraging given that medical research often focuses on men, but 90 percent were white. The researchers found that when they adjusted for age … race … gender … smoking status … and other cardiovascular risk factors … the association between vegetable and fruit intake and a lower risk of PAD held up.

“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,” says Jeffrey Berger, M.D., study co-author and associate professor of medicine and surgery at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine.

You Really Should Be Eating More Vegetables…

Berger and the research team also noted that the study confirmed most adults living in the United States do not eat an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables. In fact, they termed the overall fruit and vegetable intake “dismally low.” According to Sean Heffron, M.D., M.S., M.Sc., study co-author and instructor in medicine at NYU School of Medicine, their work “gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet.” Going forward, he hopes to see “one-on-one dietary assessments and counseling for PAD patients, as well as greater public health awareness of the importance of fruit and vegetable intake.”