The danger of heart attack and stroke can be reduced by a significant amount by consuming fresh fruit on a daily basis, researchers are reporting.

Not only was a decline in the risk of cardiovascular disease noted, but blood pressure was lowered, say researchers at Britain's Oxford University who conducted the 7-year study in China on more than 450,000 people with no history of heart disease.

Participants who ate fruit on a daily basis reduced their rate of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or heart failure some 15 percent compared to those who never consumed fruit, the researchers reported at the at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The risk of ischemic stroke -- the most common type -- dropped 25 per cent for those who consumed fruit daily, while cases of hemorrhagic stroke were reduced by 40 percent, they reported.

"This study adds to the growing body of evidence that shows the more fruit and vegetables we eat the better our heart health," says Tracy Parker of the British Heart Association, who was involved in the study. "Even eating just one more portion a day helped lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, which should give us all that extra incentive."

Participants in the study came from 10 different regions of China, both rural and urban; 18 percent said they ate fruit every day compares to 6.3 percent who said they ate no fruit at all.

In the course of the 7-year study, the researchers recorded 19,300 cases of heart disease and 19,689 strokes -- 14,688 ischemic and 3,562 hemorrhagic.

In an ischemic stroke, there is a blockage of blood supplies to the brain; in a hemorrhagic stroke there is bleeding of blood into the brain or the space surrounding it.

While previous studies on diet and its effects on heart health have confirmed the benefits of a diet containing both fruits and vegetables, the Oxford research was the first to focus on fruit alone.

"Our data clearly shows that eating fresh fruit can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischemic heart disease and stroke," says Oxford lead researcher Huaidong Du. "And not only that, the more fruit you eat the more your CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk goes down."

She pointed out that the patterns of CVD in China is different from that in Western countries.

Stroke is the main cause of cardiovascular disease in China whereas ischemic heart disease, linked to heart attacks, is more common in the West, she says.

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