Researchers followed more than 1,100 Swedish men and women who were hospitalized with their first heart attack. The individuals studied were between the ages of 45 and 70.
In the United States some 785,000 individuals will have a new coronary attack and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. The American Heart Association reports that the average age of a person having a first heart attack is 64.5 for men and 70.3 for women.
The Swedish heart attack survivors who ate chocolate two or more times a week were about three times less likely to die from heart disease than those who never ate chocolate. The study also found that when smaller amounts of chocolate were consumed, the individuals were also offered some protection.
Findings of the research appear in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine. Researchers noted that this is believed to be the first study that demonstrates that chocolate can help prevent death in heart attack survivors.
Chocolate is made from plants and, as a result, contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease.
Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants -- nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.