Having more fruits and vegetables on your diet and keeping saturated fats away can significantly lower the risk of heart attack among people who have been diagnosed with early stages of blood pressure, a new study has suggested.

A team of researchers at the John Hopkins University suggest that the DASH diet, also known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was designed to lower heart attack and cholesterol related health risks and could reduce the risk of heart ailments by as much as 20 percent.

Dr. Nisa M. Maruthur, an assistant professor of medicine at the Hopkins' School of Medicine suggests that adoption of the DASH diet could have important benefits on a public health scale, given the high incidence of mortality due to heart disease in the U.S.

The diet essentially reduces fats, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages and replaces them with whole grain, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. The diet is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association.

As part of the study, published in the online edition of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, the research team studies 436 people with high blood pressure or borderline hypertension who were not on medication. They were divided into two groups, one taking the DASH diet and the other following a typical American diet.

The researchers used the Framingham Heart Study risk equation to determine the risk of having a heart attack over ten years. After eight weeks, the DASH dieters had reduced their risk of heart attack by 18 percent compared to those eating the American diet. It was also observed that their low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol levels had reduced by seven percent and the systolic blood pressure went down by 7 mm Hg.

Additionally, it was observed that black participants had the greater benefits from the diet as their heart risk decline was by 22 percent over those with a typical diet. And those who ate the American diet plus fruits and vegetables reduced their risk by 11 percent compared to the ones eating regular American meals.