By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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PORTLAND, Oregon — Millions of years of life lost to early deaths and disability from heart disease could be saved worldwide by eating more fruits and vegetables, a new study shows.

For 195 countries, researchers calculated the number of disability-adjusted life years, which are healthy years lost to heart disease-related disability or death.

They found that in 2015, low fruit intake accounted for 57.3 million years lost and low vegetable intake accounted for 44.6 million years lost. The burden of heart disease attributed to limited fruit intake was lowest in Rwanda, at 5.1 percent, and highest in Bangladesh, at 23.2 percent. Heart disease burden resulting from limited vegetable intake was lowest in North Korea, at 5.9 percent, and highest in Mongolia, 19.4 percent.

Countries with the highest level of socioeconomic development had the lowest burden of heart disease attributed to low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Researchers used surveys and data from previous studies on the impact of low fruit and vegetable consumption on the risk of heart disease. The findings were presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions.

The researchers said that population-specific strategies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption could lead to millions more years of healthy life worldwide.

In a separate study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that nearly half of all U.S. deaths — almost 320,000 deaths — from heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes in 2012 were tied to a poor diet.

“These results should help identify priorities, guide public health planning, and inform strategies to alter dietary habits and improve health,” the authors wrote in JAMA.

According to the AHA, 41 percent of U.S. adults have a poor diet and more than two-thirds are overweight or obese.

Federal dietary guidelines recommend a healthy eating pattern that features fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fish, and that limits added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.