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Jul 07, 2017

Regular Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Reduces Risk of PAD

Consuming three servings of fruits and vegetables a day significantly reduces risk for peripheral artery disease.

Having three servings of fruits and vegetables a day significantly reduces risk for peripheral artery disease, based on a survey study of 3.7 million American adults.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study looked at the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk for peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease, often referred to as PAD, is a condition in which narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the limbs. PAD is similar to heart disease, as both conditions occur when arteries become narrowed or blocked. However, PAD affects blood flow in the legs, arms and head instead of the heart. Since both conditions have similar risk factors, experts wonder if diet also plays an important role in risk for PAD.

To learn more, researchers conducted a study that surveyed nearly 3.7 million U.S. adults on their health and lifestyle. The study also included a simple test called an ankle brachial index, which diagnoses PAD by measuring blood flow in the legs. This test showed that 6% of participants—nearly 234,000 adults—had PAD.

The average age of participants was 64 years; nearly two-thirds were female.

Overall, researchers found that fruit and vegetable consumption was extremely low among all participants. While current dietary guidelines recommend at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily, less than one-third of adults consumed at least three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. More than half of participants failed to consume at least three servings most days of the week, with 7% consuming three servings of fruits and vegetables less than once a month.

After analysis, researchers found that participants consuming at least three servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 18% less likely to have PAD than adults with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. Researchers also found that older, white women were most likely to have the highest fruit and vegetable consumption, while younger black men were least likely.

Findings highlight yet another benefit of a heart-healthy diet, as regular fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with significantly lower risk for PAD.

The study also highlights the staggering number of Americans who fail to meet current dietary guidelines. Fruits and vegetables are a key part of a heart-healthy diet, promoting a healthy weight, better health and reducing risk for many types of cancer and disease. By improving the American diet, experts hope to help millions reduce risk for PAD and heart disease, and promote better health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are the warning signs of PAD?

  • The first inkling that you have PAD is often a painful cramp in the calf or thigh that occurs repeatedly when you walk, but disappears when you’re at rest.  This symptom is known as intermittent claudication.  People with PAD often curtail their activity to avoid further pain. However, inactivity only worsens the condition, creating a downward spiral.

    As PAD becomes more advanced, other symptoms may develop including:

    • Aching or burning in your feet and toes, especially when lying down at night
    • Redness or other color changes to the skin on your feet
    • Skin on the feet that feels cool to the touch
    • Sores on your toes or feet that do not heal
  • How is PAD diagnosed?
  • Doctors often diagnose PAD by using the ankle-brachial index (ABI) to assess blood flow to the legs. The ABI is a simple test that can be done in your doctor’s office. During the test, you lie flat while your doctor measures the blood pressure in both arms using a standard blood pressure cuff and a small hand-held Doppler ultrasound probe. The ultrasound probe detects the first sound of blood flow as the cuff is deflated; that’s the upper number in your blood pressure. Your doctor then measures the blood pressure in both ankles by placing an inflatable blood pressure cuff between the ankle and calf and again using the Doppler ultrasound probe to listen for blood flow.

    The next step is to calculate the ratio of the highest ankle pressure to the highest arm pressure on the same side of the body. This is the ankle-brachial index. If the blood pressure in the ankle is a lot lower than in the arm, it is a sign that a blockage is interfering with blood flow to the lower leg.

Featured Video

Do you know what a healthy portion should look like? Watch this video to learn more!

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Featured Video

Symptoms of PAD include pain or numbness, difficulty walking, sores on the feet or legs, and erectile dysfunction.