Why Blueberries Are So Great For Your Heart

Yesterday, we reported that avocados are good for your heart health because they help lower our cholesterol. In the same vein of some of our favorite tasty foods doubling as health aids, we have more good news. Blueberries shouldn't only be praised for their antioxidant capacities. They also may help reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic.

So if you want to add some more flavor to your rather bland cereal or oatmeal, toss in a handful of blueberries. You've got nothing to lose — only a healthier heart to gain.

"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States," researcher Sarah A. Johnson said, in a press release. "Once women go through menopause, this puts them at an even greater risk for it. Our findings suggest that the addition of a single food, blueberries, to the diet may mitigate the negative cardiovascular effects that often occur as a result of menopause."

For the study, Johnson and a team of Florida State University nutrition and exercise scientists collected data from 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension over an eight-week period. First, they took the participants' blood pressure and measured their arterial stiffness and select blood biomarkers. Then, they randomly assigned to receive either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder — the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries — or 22 grams of a placebo powder. Meanwhile, participants continued their normal diet and exercise routines.

At the end of the study, women receiving the blueberry powder had, on average, a 7 mmHg (5.1 percent) decrease in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in the blood pressure reading that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. They also saw a 5 mmHg (6.3 percent) reduction in diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number measuring the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

Furthermore, participants in the blueberry-treated group had an average reduction of 97 cm/second (6.5%) in arterial stiffness.

But keep in mind that the study was funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC). In the future, the researchers hope to consider other dosages of blueberries, longer intervention periods, and other sample populations, to find the exact mechanism behind their results.

So it's possible that a cup of blueberries a day could help keep the cardiologist away. And seeing as they are bite-size bursts of delicious flavor that seem to find a home in so many a dish, this shouldn't be a too much of a daily chore.

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