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Plant-Based Diet Improves Common Heart Disease Risk

Plant Based Diet and Heart Disease

Less than half of those with peripheral artery disease are receiving the proper care, which includes counseling for improving their diet.


Peripheral artery disease is a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to all parts of the body. When this plaque builds up, it can lead to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It is also a risk factor for limb amputation.

PAD affects an estimated 200 million people around the world and is more prevalent in an aging population. Although a very serious condition, it is easily diagnosed and treatable with both medication and lifestyle changes.

Unfortunately, in a recent study, researchers found that counseling on diet and exercise, which can prevent arterial blockages, was only provided in about 20% of emergency room visits for symptoms.

A heart-healthy diet – one that is low in fats/cholesterol and added sugars – is best for those at risk for peripheral artery disease. The best way to achieve this? More fruits and vegetables!

A study published this month utilized data collected from 3.7 million people with an average age of 64. Those who ate three or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day had an 18% reduced risk of PAD. Those that smoked found even greater benefit, as they are at most increased risk for the disease.

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Past studies have found that low antioxidant levels contribute to increased blood pressure in those with peripheral artery disease. Whole plant foods are the best way to achieve an increase in antioxidant content of the diet. Supplements are not suggested, as they can have unwanted effects plus they do not provide the additional benefits of a diet that is loaded with fruits and veggies – such as increased fiber and being lower calorie/fat to help with weight loss.

"Our study gives further evidence for the importance of incorporating more fruits and vegetables in the diet," said Dr. Sean Heffron, an instructor in medicine at New York University School of Medicine.

Journal References:
Jeffrey S. Berger, Joseph A. Ladapo. Underuse of Prevention and Lifestyle Counseling in Patients With Peripheral Artery Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2017; 69 (18): 2293 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.02.064

University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences. "Quality of care for peripheral artery disease is low, study suggests." ScienceDaily, 2 May 2017.

M. D. Muller, R. C. Drew, C. A. Blaha, J. L. Mast, J. Cui, A. B. Reed, L. I. Sinoway. Oxidative Stress Contributes to the Augmented Exercise Pressor Reflex in Peripheral Arterial Disease Patients. The Journal of Physiology, 2012; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.241281

Additional Resource:
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Photo Credit:
Via Wikimedia Commons