Just one extra banana or avocado a day could prevent heart attacks and stroke, new research suggests.

Potassium-rich foods may stop fatal blockages from occurring by preventing arteries from hardening, a study found.

Previous research reveals stiff, inflexible arteries increase a person's risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, reports the Daily Mail.

The researchers believe potassium regulates genes that maintain artery flexibility.
Study author Dr Paul Sanders from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, said: "The findings demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular [hardening]".

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HOW THE RESEARCH WAS CARRIED OUT

The researchers analyzed mice who are at-risk of heart disease when fed a high-fat diet.
The mice were given either low, normal or high levels of potassium.

Arteries become hard with a low-potassium diet.

Results reveal the arteries of mice fed a low-potassium diet became significantly harder.
The animals given high potassium had substantially less artery hardening.
Mice fed potassium-rich food also had reduced stiffness in their aorta, which is the body's main artery.

This is thought to be due to low-potassium levels in the blood preventing the expression of genes that maintain artery flexibility.

Dr Sanders said: "The findings have important translational potential since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice and the adverse effect of low-potassium intake."

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight.