Eating an apple a day reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes among adults aged 50 years and above, according to a British Medical Journal report.

The new study suggests that the age-old health advice, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is at par with many widespread modern medicines and less likely to have any side effects.  Researchers say that eating an apple a day is as good as statins given to adults above 50 years of age, according to a press statement.

Change in lifestyle is often the first medical recommendation given by doctors and health experts to keep away diseases. Previous researchers have found that consuming more statins reduces the risk of vascular events, irrespective of a person's susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases.

For the study, Oxford University researchers looked at how prescribing statins affected the most common causes of vascular mortality. This was compared to statistics of people aged over 50 years in the UK, people who took one statin a day and those who didn't take any statin or consumed an apple a day.

Estimations made during the study included:

- 5.2 million people are currently eligible for statin treatment in the UK

- 17.6 million people who are not currently taking statins would be offered them if they became recommended as a primary prevention measure for everyone over 50.

Researchers found that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million more adults would reduce the annual number of vascular deaths by 9,400, while offering a daily apple to 70% of the total UK population aged over 50 years (22 million people) would avert 8,500 vascular deaths.

Researchers also noted some negative attributes of prescribing statins to everyone over the age of 50. It would result in at least a thousand more cases of muscle disease and an increase in the diagnosis of diabetes. However, prescribing an apple a day to everyone over the age of 30 can reduce heart attacks and strokes by 3 percent.

"This study shows that small dietary changes as well as increased use of statins at a population level may significantly reduce vascular mortality in the UK," wrote the authors. "This research adds weight to calls for the increased use of drugs for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, as well as for persevering with policies aimed at improving the nutritional quality of UK diets."

"The Victorians had it about right when they came up with their brilliantly clear and simple public health advice: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". It just shows how effective small changes in diet can be, and that both drugs and healthier living can make a real difference in preventing heart disease and stroke," Dr Adam Briggs of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University said. "While no-one currently prescribed statins should replace them for apples, we could all benefit from simply eating more fruit."