Can there be a non-medicinal way to maintain your heart?

Hypertension affects nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States. The condition puts a strain on the cardiovascular system, which may contribute to heart or kidney failure and even a stroke.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that people with high blood pressure should eat healthy, not smoke and exercise regularly.

New findings suggest that blueberries can significantly improve cardiovascular health. Previous studies have also shown that there are up to 16 foods that can improve cardiovascular health. The list includes mainly broccoli, spinach, fish and pulses. Berries may also help reduce heart disease owing to their antioxidant potency.

The study shows the phytochemicals that give blueberries their blue color can considerably improve cardiovascular health.

Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, Ph.D., from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London in the United Kingdom is the lead author of the study. The study included 40 participants in perfect health who were randomly divided into two groups. One group was given a control drink while the other received a daily drink consisting of 200 grams of blueberries.

To monitor the effects of the blueberry drink, the researchers took the participants blood pressure and measured their flow-mediated dilation (FMD). FMD measures how much the brachial artery widens when blood flows at a higher rate. This is a standard indicator of cardiovascular risk.

In the second part of the research, the researchers compared drinking blueberries with control drinks that had the same concentration of minerals or vitamins that was found in the blueberries. Results showed a clear benefit of taking a blueberry drink only a couple of hours after the participants had consumed them.

Overall, findings showed that only after a month of consuming 200 grams of blueberries every day, the blood pressure of study participants decreased by 5 milliliters of mercury on an average. The researchers stated that such a decrease is mostly possible with medicine. The benefits are attributed to the anthocyanin metabolites as the main mediators of vascular bioactivities of blueberries.

Rodriguez-Mateos says that “even though it is best to eat blueberries as a whole, the study finds that the majority of the effects can be explained by anthocyanins.” The researchers explain that anthocyanins mix in the blood as phenolic acid metabolites.

Based on the findings, the researchers conclude that consuming blueberries daily for a person’s entire life could lower their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 20%.