Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help keep your leg arteries free of blockages, a new study suggests.
"Our study gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet," said study co-author Dr. Sean Heffron. He's an instructor in medicine at New York University School of Medicine.
People with peripheral artery disease have narrowing of the leg arteries, which limits blood flow to the muscles and makes it difficult or painful to walk or stand.
Researchers 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 May 18 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
"One-on-one dietary assessments and counseling for [peripheral artery disease] patients, as well as greater public health awareness of the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption, are both needed," Heffron said in a journal news release.
Previous studies have linked lower fruit and vegetable intake with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, but there has been little research into the connection between fruit and vegetable consumption and peripheral artery disease, the researchers said. Only an association, rather than a cause-and-effect link, between eating produce and peripheral artery disease was seen in this study.
"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.
Berger is an associate professor of medicine and surgery at New York University School of Medicine.
Older white women were most likely to eat three or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the study found, while younger black men were least likely to do so. Current and former smokers with low fruit and vegetable intake had particularly high odds for peripheral artery disease, the researchers said.