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A Cup of Blueberries a Day Could Save Your Heart

Jan 09, 2015 07:39 PM EST
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Blueberries have long been associated with a healthy lifestyle, but this is often attributed to the fact that they are packed full of antioxidants. Now new research has revealed that these incredible little fruits can also help people avoid heart disease, improving the health of their arteries well into old age.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Blueberries have long been associated with a healthy lifestyle, but this is often attributed to the fact that they are packed full of antioxidants. Now new research has revealed that these incredible little fruits can also help people avoid heart disease, improving the health of their arteries well into old age.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which details how just one cup of blueberries per day can significantly reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, especially for women.

"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it," Sarah A. Johnson, the assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) at Florida State University, explained in a statement. "Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to a diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause."

So how did Johnson and her colleagues determine this? For eight weeks, they had 48 postmenopausal participants diagnosed with either pre- or stage-1 hypertension take either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder - the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries - or 22 grams of a placebo powder every day.

Hypertension of the arteries occurs when this normally flexible tubing from the heart begins to stiffen. This is common in aging, but can be exacerbated by the stress of menopause or among people who overwork their heart in other ways (IE- by exercising too much). The result is that the heart meets more resistance pumping blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and a number of CVD biomarkers were measured at the start and end of this study. Amazingly, the blueberry group showed an average five to six percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 6.5 percent average reduction in arterial stiffness. This, the researchers write, could be explained by a stunning 68.5 percent increase in nitric oxide - a blood biomarker known to be involved in the widening of blood vessels.

So if you're considering whether or not to indulge and buy some blueberries for a fruity breakfast topping next time you're at the supermarket, indulge away. It could help save your heart.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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