Participants' health status and eating habits were monitored over eight years, and researchers found that the risk of dying from a heart attack was 40% lower among those eating chili peppers at least four times per week.
Death from stroke was more than halved, according to results published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed," said study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed).
Licia Iacoviello, director of the department of epidemiology and prevention at Neuromed and a professor at the University of Insubria, explained that the beneficial properties of chili had been passed down through Italian food culture.
"And now, as already observed in China and in the United States, we know that the various plants of the capsicum species, although consumed in different ways throughout the world, can exert a protective action towards our health," said Iacoviello.
The team now plans to investigate the biochemical mechanisms that make chili good for our health.
External experts praised the study while pointing out some limitations.
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in the UK, said the paper is "interesting" but "does not show a causal link" between chili consumption and health benefits.