Taking statins could prevent around 9,500 deaths a year from cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, in the over 50s, while an apple a day could prevent or delay around 8,500 deaths, according to new research. Apples would give a similar beneficial boost to cardiovascular health as medicines such as statins, say University of Oxford researchers in the British Medical Journal. The message is particularly important for people over 50 who are at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Adam Briggs and colleagues from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University used mathematical models to test the health impacts of both scenarios – prescribing an apple a day to all adults aged 50 and over, and prescribing a statin a day instead. They calculated that if seven in every 10 people complied with this advice, statin drugs could save 9,400 lives, while an apple a day could save 8,500 lives a year.
More than two thirds of adults do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and although nine in 10 of us do manage to eat at least one portion a day, we would all benefit from eating more, says Dr Briggs.
Apples have long been known as a natural source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavanoids, all of which are good for our health and wellbeing
“The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice: ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. It just shows how effective small changes in the diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke. While no-one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit.”
Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the Stroke Association, said: “Apples have long been known as a natural source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavonoids, all of which are good for our health and wellbeing. This study shows that, as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a daily apple could help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
“Whilst it is vital that those who have been prescribed the cholesterol lowering drugs – statins – continue to take this highly effective medication, everyone can lower their risk of stroke with simple lifestyle changes, like eating a balanced diet.”
Statins are drugs which lower the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. High levels can lead to fatty deposits building up in the arteries; this can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and conditions such as coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack and stroke.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The ‘apple a day’ message has survived for over a century, though now we encourage people to eat five different fruits and vegetables a day, not just one apple. However, while fruit is undoubtedly good for you, it should not replace vital heart medicines such as statins, prescribed by your doctor. This study reiterates that statins save lives.”