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Mediterranean diet can lower risk of peripheral artery disease

A new Spanish study says changing your diet can reduce your risk of a painful condition called peripheral artery disease.
January 22, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The Mediterranean diet, which consists of high amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, nuts and beans, has long been touted as a diet that is "heart healthy."

Now, a new Spanish study has found the diet may also protect against a painful condition called: peripheral artery disease.

Just like coronary arteries, the blood vessels in our lower extremities can get clogged up too.

Dr. Harry Balian, Interventional Cardiologist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, says patients with peripheral artery disease or PAD make up half his practice.

"Sixty-percent of patients with peripheral vascular disease also have advanced coronary artery disease, so it goes hand in hand," said Balian.

These blockages can lead to pain in the thighs and calves.

"It's the same concept as having chest pain. When you have blockages in your coronary arteries, you're going to have chest pain. If you have blockages in your arteries over your lower extremities, you're going to have lower extremity pain."

The disease tends to be more prevalent in smokers, men, people with diabetes and those who are sedentary. Now, new research from the University of Pamplona finds changing what you eat can reduce your risk of PAD.

"You gain the most protection from a Mediterranean diet because it does provide the lowest in saturated fat, highest in fiber, highest in omega-3," said Julia Zampano, RD, LD, with Cleveland Clinic's Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation.

In the study, participants were separated into three groups. Two ate the Mediterranean style diet supplemented with nuts and olive oil. The other group ate low fat. The results were that those in the Mediterranean diet groups had a lower risk of PAD compared to the low fat group.

The theory was that eating fish, fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts lower inflammation and increase good cholesterol.

"HDL are the soldiers that will fight off the LDL. When you have higher ratio of LDL, your LDL, bad cholesterol, is less potent," said Bailan.

Dr. Balian treats patients with catheter procedures that clear arterial blockages and medical interventions such as cholesterol lowering drugs, but he believes the best way to save your limbs and your life is to change what you eat and get moving.

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