A new study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that eating 2 or more cups of yogurt a week is associated with a lower risk for developing cardiovascular disease in adults who already have high blood pressure.

The large-scale observational study, funded by the dairy-farmer-founded National Dairy Council and others, is the first of its kind to examine the relationship between eating yogurt and reduced cardiovascular disease risk in hypertensive adults. Nearly 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, which increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke — two of the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States, the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Dairy Council said.

Earlier studies have shown a beneficial link between consuming dairy foods, including yogurt, and some diseases related to cardiovascular disease, including type 2 diabetes. This new study suggests people with high blood pressure may have a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke if yogurt is part of their regular diet.

“People who have high blood pressure are already at risk for cardiovascular disease, and this study indicates that eating yogurt just two or more times a week is something easy and tangible that may help,” said Dr. Mickey Rubin, vice president of nutrition research for the National Dairy Council.

In the study, data from 55,898 females (ages 30-55) in the Nurses’ Health Study and 18,232 males (ages 40-75) in Health Professionals Follow-up Study were analyzed to evaluate the association between eating yogurt and cardiovascular disease risk among adults with high blood pressure. The results showed eating at least 2 cups of yogurt per week was associated with a 30 percent reduced risk of heart attack for women and a trend for a 19 percent reduced risk of a heart attack among men. During a follow-up period, eating 1 cup or more of yogurt per week was associated with an approximately 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease or stroke, the council said.

Finally, regular yogurt eaters in the study who followed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which includes low-fat dairy as a key food group, showed an associated cardiovascular disease risk reduction of 16 percent and 30 percent in women and men, respectively.