In The News: Cocoa Can Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease

| 6/6/2011 10:11:45 AM

S.McCabeCan a cup of cocoa a day keep the heart doctor away? With as much as I love chocolate, I sure hope so.

The antioxidants in cocoa are especially beneficial for maintaining a healthy heart. Consuming more cocoa is associated with decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health and lower cholesterol, according to recent Harvard research.

Cocoa and other dark chocolate products are considered some of the most concentrated sources for flavonoids, says researcher Valentine Yanchou Njike, M.D., of the Yale Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Connecticut. Flavonoids are naturally-occurring plant compounds that stimulate the body to make more nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels, easing blood pressure and improving circulation. 

5-31-11 cocoa
Flavonoids in cocoa may help people maintain a healthy heart.
Photo by LibyBaySoap/Courtesy Flickr 

This news may come at a perfect time. Almost 20 percent of people between the ages of 24 and 32 have high blood pressure, nearly five times the rate found in previous studies, according to new research at UNC-Chapel Hill. This is a chilling statistic because high blood pressure is a large contributing factor to heart disease, the leading cause of death for Americans.

Still, heart disease is not unavoidable. In fact, by changing your habits and lifestyle, coronary heart disease is preventable up to 80 percent of the time. The Mayo Clinic recommends five main things you can do to decrease your chance of heart disease: