If you're looking to lower your risk of death by stroke and heart disease, then look no further than the second letter of the alphabet.

A new study finds that simple, common B vitamins can help save your life.

Japanese researchers studied data on 23,119 men and 35,611 women between the ages of 40 and 79, and divided them into five groups based on their intakes of folate, B6 and B12.

The researchers found that over 14 years of follow-up, men with the highest levels of folate and B6 had a significantly lower risk of death by heart failure than those with the lowest. Women with the highest levels of those nutrients had the lowest risk of death by stroke and heart disease, according to the study published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke.

Try getting those results from a med... or better yet, don't try--because you'll have a hard time finding anything that effective on a prescription pad.

The new study isn't the first to show how these B vitamins protect the heart. Folate, B6 and B12 all work to reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can turn your heart into a ticking time bomb. Elevated homocysteine levels can damage the arteries and cause blood clots.

The researchers found that the benefits of B6 and folate held whether the patients got their vitamins from a supplement or, better yet, their own diets. You can get yours from food, too: The best sources of folate include liver, spinach, beans, peas and asparagus. And you can get vitamin B6 from bananas, garbanzo beans and chicken breasts.

Cereals are fortified with plenty of B6 and folate, but most of them are also "fortified" with enough sugar to sweeten your coffee for a month, so avoid them if you can. If you find you need help getting these nutrients, turn to a good multivitamin or a supplement-- B vitamins are easy to find and inexpensive.

The researchers didn't find any heart benefits for vitamin B12, but that's no reason to skip the liver (in addition to folate, it's packed with B12). This key nutrient has been linked to brain health, especially in seniors. In fact, one study found that people with lower amounts of B12 have smaller brains.

The B vitamins may not always get the most attention, but they're a crucial part of your overall health. And as the latest research shows, they could help save you from stroke and heart disease.

So if you're looking to "B" healthy, make sure you get busy with these Bs.