You already known that eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for the arteries in your heart, but a new study found that it can help reduce blockages in your legs, too.
Researchers studied data from nearly 3.7 million people, whose mean age was 64 years old and found that people who ate at least three servings of fruits and vegetables each day lowered their risk of developing peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, occurs when the peripheral arteries serving your stomach, arms, head, and most commonly the legs, narrows due to plaque build up.
“Our study gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet,” lead author Dr. Sean Heffron, instructor at New York University School of Medicine, said in a story on Sci News.
For the study, people across the United States completed questionnaires and medical tests measuring blood pressure in the ankle and forearm. About 6 percent of participants had PAD and 29.2 of participants actually ate three or more servings of produce each day.
“Our study confirmed that Americans’ overall fruit and vegetable intake remains dismally low,” the authors said in Sci News. The team said that the lower risk levels were consistent even after age, gender, race, smoking and cardiovascular risk factors were taken into account.
“Older white women were most likely to eat three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, while younger black men were the least likely to report daily intake of three or more servings of fruits and vegetables,” the authors say in Sci News.
According to the American Heart Association, legs or hips that suffer from cramps, pain, or achiness are common PAD symptoms. Many often don’t realize they have the disease and it goes untreated, which can lead to complications like gangrene, and in extreme cases, amputation. The disease comes with an elevated risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks or strokes.
Symptoms typically include leg pain, wounds on the feet that don’t heal quickly, lower temperature in your legs or feet, slow nail or hair growth on your feet and erectile dysfunction in men. Certain behaviors and health factors can increase the risk of getting PAD, like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and a family history of heart disease. Mayo Clinic reports that making lifestyle changes, especially giving up smoking, is one of the best measures to lower risk. However, sometimes that just isn’t enough, and medications to prevent blood clots or lower elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels are needed. Exercising regularly can also help improve pain associated with PAD.