Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels and it is usually associated with a build up of fatty deposits in the arteries. It can also be triggered by high blood pressure – one of the most potent risk factors for developing heart disease.
The condition can also increase the risk of angina, heart attacks and heart failure.
Exercise, quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet are key ways to reduce the risk of heart disease.
However experts have considered eating foods rich in amino acids could be as good for your heart as stopping smoking – or getting more exercise.
A study by researchers from the University of East Anglia, found people who eat high levels of amino acids – which are found in meat and plant-based protein have lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
Experts even believe the link could be as strong as cutting salt intake, exercising, cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking.
Researchers investigated the impact of seven amino acids on heart health.
They analysed data from 2,000 women with a healthy BMI, looked at their diet and compared it to their blood pressure – and blood vessel stiffness.
They found the women who had eaten the highest amount of amino acids had lower measured of blood pressure – and arterial stiffness.
The experts did stipulate that the food source was important – with plant sources of amino acids associated with lower blood pressure and protein intake from animal sources associated with lower levels of a retrial stiffness.
“This research show a protective effect of several amino acids on cardiovascular health,” said Dr Amy Jennings, from UEA’s North Medical School.
“Increasing intake from protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, dairy produce, beans, lentils, broccoli, and spinach could be an important and readily achievable way to reduce people’s risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Previous studies have found increased dietary protein could be associated with lower blood pressure – so the experts set out to find out if plant or bird sources were more beneficial.
The experts looked at the amino acids – arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine and tyrosine.
Dr Jennings added: ”The really surprising thing that we found is that amino acid intake has as much of an effect on blood pressure as established lifestyle risk factors such as salt intake, physical activity and alcohol consumption.
“For arterial stiffness, the association was similar to the magnitude of change previously associated with not smoking.”