Large study finds fruits, veggies good for leg arteries

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Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies – they’re good for your legs.  This is not the typical reason given for consuming more produce but it is a suggestion being made by recent research showing that a steady diet which includes daily servings of fruits and vegetables may help keep leg arteries free of blockages.

This finding is from a new study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology which analyzed the diets of 3.7 million people with an average age of 64.  Findings showed that individuals who ate at least three or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables had an 18 percent reduced risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

PAD has a tendency to sneak up on people.  This narrowing of the leg arteries limiting blood flow to the muscles can cause interruptions with walking ability.  Some people may notice more muscles aches in their legs or maybe they’ve had a sore on their foot that is taking forever to heal.  Or maybe they’ve been told they have poor circulation. 

Not only does PAD lead to narrowing of the arteries but also makes them harden, preventing flexibility within the artery.  This is known as atherosclerosis and common causes of this include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and not being physically active. 

Why would eating more produce possibly help lower the risk of PAD?  For one thing, fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and high in potassium. Foods high in sodium make the heart work harder.  In contrast, potassium plays a key role in heart function and muscle contractions.  Potassium works with sodium to regulate the body’s water balance.  A diet low in sodium and high in potassium lowers blood pressure reducing the risk of heart disease.  Fruits and vegetables also provide substantial amounts of magnesium and calcium, two minerals essential for heart health and lower blood pressure. Plus, they contain antioxidants, compounds that prevent or repair damage caused to the arteries.

Few studies have focused on the effect of eating more fruits and vegetables and PAD.  It is already understood that a higher consumption of produce can positively impact cardiovascular disease by helping to reduce it. However, study researchers have pointed out that this study is only an association and does not prove a cause-and-effect link between eating produce and PAD.

The main takeaway from the study was that individuals can take advantage of the simple act of adding in more fruits and vegetables to their daily diet to help possibly reduce the odds of developing PAD.  In addition, other important steps to take include quitting smoking, increasing exercise, reaching a healthy body weight, and eating a healthy diet in general.