Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
There´s a saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Based on new research, there may be other fruits that should be added to this list. Researchers recently discovered that consuming three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week could help women lower the risk of a heart attack.
In the study, the team of investigators looked at the high levels of the dietary flavonoids in blueberries and strawberries. Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds that are also found in other foods such as blackberries, eggplant, grapes and wine, as well as other types of fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins, a particular sub-class of flavonoids, were discovered to help stop the buildup of plaque, dilate arteries, and assist in other cardiovascular benefits. As a result, the scientists found that heart attack risk could be decreased as much as one-third with the consumption of blueberries and strawberries.
“Blueberries and strawberries can easily be incorporated into what women eat every week,” explained the study´s senior author Eric Rimm, an associate professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in a prepared statement. “This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts.”
The findings, recently featured in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, focused on blueberries and strawberries as they were the most popularly consumed berries in the United States. The scientists proposed that other foods could produce similar results. With these results, the American Heart Association supports the consumption of berries along with other fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products for a balanced diet that is full of varied nutrients.
The team of investigators consisted of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. They conducted a prospective study with 93,600 women who were between the ages of 25 and 42; these women were also part of the Nurses´ Health Study II. During an 18-year study period, they filled out questionnaires about their diet every four years.
During the study period, a total of 405 heart attacks occurred and the females who consumed the highest amount of blueberries and strawberries had a 32 percent decrease in their heart attack risk, as compared to their counterparts who consumed berries once a month or less.
“We have shown that even at an early age, eating more of these fruits may reduce risk of a heart attack later in life,” commented the study´s lead author AedÃn Cassidy, who serves as head of the Department of Nutrition at Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia, in the statement.
The study follows a report in the Journal of the American Heart Association that revealed that there was a wide range of cardiovascular health for residents in different states of the U.S. They found that three percent of the total U.S. population reportedly had ideal heart health, while 10 percent of the total population had poor heart health. Overall, those who lived in the New England and Western States reported to have a higher percentage of the population who met the ideal cardiovascular health.
“Americans reported having on average more than four of the seven risk factors for heart disease,” noted Dr. Jing Fang, an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Heat Disease and Stroke Prevention), in a prepared statement. “We also found large disparities by age, sex, race/ethnicity and levels of education.”
Furthermore, the American Heart Association has set out a goal to help boost the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 2020; they aim to improve heart health by 20 percent, while decrease deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.
“This diversity necessitates that innovative, customized strategies be developed to most effectively improve cardiovascular health for specific states and among subpopulations,” remarked Donna Arnett, president of the American Heart Association, in response to the JAHA report.