*Stress, insomnia may triple death risk for those with hypertension
Researchers have validated walnuts, drinking higher-salinity water, regular walking and exercise, at least eight hours sleep daily, beetroot, zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa), bananas among others to lower blood pressure.Until now, high blood pressure or rather hypertension has been associated with stroke, kidney damage, heart attack and sudden death.
Also, researchers found that a stressful work environment coupled with a lack of sleep can result in a threefold-higher risk of cardiovascular death in people with hypertension.The recent research looked at how stress and insomnia affected the health of employees who have hypertension, and the news was sobering.The authors published their findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The researchers found that in comparison with their peers who slept well and did not experience work-related stress, hypertensive employees with stress and insomnia were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Walnuts lower blood pressure for those at risk of heart disease
When combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new Pennsylvania State, United States (U.S.), study.In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts. They found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.
According to the researchers, central pressure is the pressure that is exerted on organs like the heart. This measure, like blood pressure measured in the arm the traditional way, provides information about a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State, said the study suggests that because walnuts lowered central pressure, their risk of CVD may have also decreased.
The researchers found that while all treatment diets had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure. In contrast to brachial pressure — which is the pressure moving away from your heart and measured with an arm cuff in the doctor’s office — central pressure is the pressure moving toward your heart. Tindall said that the results — recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association — underline the importance of replacing saturated fat with healthier alternatives.
Can drinking mineral-rich water prevent hypertension?
Could adding calcium and magnesium to drinking water be a practical way to lower high blood pressure in people who live in areas where drinking water is deficient in these minerals?
A recent study has linked drinking water of higher salinity to lower blood pressure in people living in a coastal region of Bangladesh. Sources of drinking water in the region can vary in salinity due to the influx of seawater.While water of higher salinity contains more sodium, which can raise blood pressure, it also has more calcium and magnesium. The researchers explain this in a Journal of the American Heart Association paper about the study.
“Calcium and magnesium are protective; they decrease blood pressure,” says lead study author Abu Mohammed Naser, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, United States.He and his co-authors attribute the study’s findings to the benefits of magnesium and calcium outweighing the harms of sodium.
The authors conclude: “Ensuring optimum concentrations of [calcium] and [magnesium] in drinking water may be an important public health and nutritional intervention to ensure fulfillment of daily requirements of these essential macro-minerals since evidence suggests that globally, concentrations of these minerals are decreasing in the diet.”
Zobo/Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Scientists have confirmed the efficacy of Zobo in the treatment of hypertension and high cholesterol/fat levels.The study published in the journal Fitoterapia is titled “Hibiscus sabdariffa in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia: a comprehensive review of animal and human studies.”
The researchers noted: “The effectiveness of Hibiscus sabdariffa (HS) in the treatment of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease is assessed in this review by taking a comprehensive approach to interpreting the randomized clinical trial (RCT) results in the context of the available ethnomedical, phytochemical, pharmacological, and safety and toxicity information. HS decoctions and infusions of calyxes, and on occasion leaves, are used in at least 10 countries worldwide in the treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia with no reported adverse events or side effects. HS extracts have a low degree of toxicity with a LD50 ranging from 2,000 to over 5,000 mg/kg/day.
“There is no evidence of hepatic or renal toxicity as the result of HS extract consumption, except for possible adverse hepatic effects at high doses. There is evidence that HS acts as a diuretic, however in most cases the extract did not significantly influence electrolyte levels. Animal studies have consistently shown that consumption of HS extract reduces blood pressure in a dose dependent manner. In RCTs, the daily consumption of a tea or extract produced from HS calyxes significantly lowered systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in adults with pre to moderate essential hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
“In addition, HS tea was as effective at lowering blood pressure as the commonly used blood pressure medication Captropril, but less effective than Lisinopril. Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides were lowered in the majority of normolipidemic, hypolipidemic, and diabetic animal models, whereas high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) was generally not affected by the consumption of HS extract. Over half of the RCTs showed that daily consumption of HS tea or extracts had favorable influence on lipid profiles including reduced total cholesterol, LDL-C, triglycerides, as well as increased HDL-C. Anthocyanins found in abundance in HS calyxes are generally considered the phytochemicals responsible for the antihypertensive and hypocholesterolemic effects, however evidence has also been provided for the role of polyphenols and hibiscus acid.
“This comprehensive body of evidence suggests that extracts of HS are promising as a treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia, however more high quality animal and human studies informed by actual therapeutic practices are needed to provide recommendations for use that have the potential for widespread public health benefit.”
Walk and exercise regularly
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure. Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.In fact, 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
What is more, doing even more exercise reduces your blood pressure even further, according to the National Walkers’ Health Study.Bottom Line: Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.
Reduce your sodium intake
Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods. For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry.In many studies, salt has been linked to high blood pressure and heart events, like stroke. However, more recent research indicates that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear.
One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a sensitivity to salt.If you already have high blood pressure, it is worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
Bottom Line: Most guidelines for lowering blood pressure recommend lowering sodium intake. However, that recommendation might make the most sense for people who are salt-sensitive.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. In fact, alcohol is linked to 16 per cent of high blood pressure cases around the world.While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, those benefits may be offset by negative effects.In the US, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.Bottom Line: Drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. Limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day for women, two for men.
Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium is an important mineral. It helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels.Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake while decreasing potassium intake. To get a better balance of potassium to sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and more fresh, whole foods.
Foods that are particularly high in potassium include: Vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes; Fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges and apricots; Dairy, such as milk and yogurt; Tuna and salmon; Nuts and seeds; and Beans.Bottom Line: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure.
Cut back on caffeine
If you have ever downed a cup of coffee before you have had your blood pressure taken, you would know that caffeine causes an instant boost.However, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase.In fact, people who drink caffeinated coffee and tea tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who do not.Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who do not consume it regularly. If you suspect you’re caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Caffeine can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, although for many people it does not cause a lasting increase.
Learn to manage stress
Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure. When you are chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.When you experience stress, you might also be more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy food, that can negatively affect blood pressure.
Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:
Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
Work less: Working a lot, and stressful work situations in general, are linked to high blood pressure.Bottom Line: Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress can help.
If you are overweight, losing weight can make a big difference for your heart health.According to a 2016 study, losing five per cent of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure.In previous studies, losing 17 pounds (7.7 kg) was linked to lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.
To put that in perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.Losing weight can help your blood vessels do a better job of expanding and contracting, making it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood.Bottom Line: Losing weight can significantly lower high blood pressure. This effect is even greater when you exercise.
Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease.Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.Surprisingly, studies haven’t found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.
Still, since both smoking and high blood pressure raise the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help reverse that risk.Bottom Line: There’s conflicting research about smoking and high blood pressure, but what is clear is that both increase the risk of heart disease.
Cut added sugar and refined carbs
There is a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure.In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day.Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was linked to lower blood pressure.
And it is not just sugar – all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems.Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.One study on people undergoing statin therapy found that those who went on a six-week, carb-restricted diet saw a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people not on a diet.Bottom Line: Refined carbs, especially sugar, may raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may help reduce your levels.
Try meditation or deep breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.Both meditation and deep breathing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
There is quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure.Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or to simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat.
Eat calcium-rich foods
People with low calcium intake often have high blood pressure. While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets do seem linked to healthy levels.For most adults, the calcium recommendation is 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day.In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines and tofu. Here is a complete list.
Bottom Line: Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. Get calcium through dark leafy greens and tofu, as well as dairy.
Eat foods rich in magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax. While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people do not get enough.Some studies have suggested that getting too little magnesium is linked with high blood pressure, but evidence from clinical studies has been less clear.Still, eating a magnesium-rich diet is a recommended way to ward off high blood pressure.You can incorporate magnesium into your diet with vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat and whole grains.Bottom Line: Magnesium is an important mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Find it in whole foods, such as legumes and whole grains.
This flavorful vegetable is high in nitric oxide, which may help lower blood pressure by helping to open your arteries.The results of a study carried out in 2015 found that people with hypertension had lower blood pressure levels when they drank 250 milliliters of beet juice every day for four weeks. Another study demonstrated that beets could be one of the key foods to lower blood pressure quickly as a positive effect was noticed just six hours after drinking beetroot juice combined with apple. Beets can be juiced, roasted, baked or added to stir-fry and salads. If you do not like the taste of beets or the hassle of preparation, high-quality beet supplements have the same nutritional value and can be in powdered or capsule form.
Fish is good for your brain, and for preventing and reducing high blood pressure. Fish such as salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, which also reduce inflammation and lower triglycerides.In a study published in the journal Nutrition, subjects who ate fatty fish three times a week were shown to have reduced blood pressure. Fish is also a great source of vitamin D, which is one of the best vitamins to lower blood pressure. Try eating fatty fish two or three times a week.
Seeds such as pumpkin, flax, and sunflower seeds are a great source of the minerals potassium and magnesium.Potassium relaxes blood vessel walls and flushes sodium out of your system, both of which help to lower blood pressure. Potassium is also essential for the functioning of electrical signals in the heart and nervous system that keep your heartbeat regular.People who take diuretics for high blood pressure are particularly susceptible to low potassium levels as these drugs often result in the mineral being lost through urination.Magnesium is crucial for the effective regulation of a wide range of body systems. It helps blood vessels relax and assists with the transportation of other minerals such as potassium and calcium around the body.
In a study of 110 patients with peripheral artery disease, subjects were given 30 g of milled flaxseed or placebo in food every day for six months. The flaxseed group had 10 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) and 7 mm lower diastolic blood pressure (DBP) than the control group. Seeds can be added to salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or granola or combined with oats and dates to make a healthy snack bar. Try to eat one – two tablespoons a day.
Garlic is not just good for keeping vampires away. It is also a natural antibiotic and it can help improve high blood pressure.Like beets, garlic is high in nitric oxide, which can help to widen the arteries and enable the smooth muscles to relax, making it easier for your blood to flow, as well as reducing the pressure on the artery walls.
In one study, 210 patients with stage 1 essential hypertension were divided into 7 groups. Five of the groups were given either 300/mg, 600/mg, 900/mg, 1200/mg or 1500/mg garlic in tablet form for 24 weeks, the last two groups were given a placebo or atenolol, a beta-blocker commonly used to treat high blood pressure. The people who were given garlic tablets showed greater reductions in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels than both the atenolol and the placebo groups.
Most clinical trials use 600-1,200mg of garlic a day. Raw garlic can be toxic if you eat a lot of it, so do not let it exceed five per cent of your diet. Garlic can be added to stir-fry, roasted with meat or vegetables, and used instead of salt as a healthy seasoning.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) contains polyphenols, compounds that fight inflammation and reduce blood pressure by keeping your blood vessels healthy and artery walls elastic.One study compared hypertension in women who were on a polyphenol-rich Mediterranean-style diet with women who didn’t eat any polyphenols over four months. The women on the Mediterranean diet had much lower blood pressure. You can cook with EVOO, dunk your bread in it instead of butter, or mix with a dash of balsamic vinegar as a healthy salad dressing.
Studies have shown that watermelon can help reduce the symptoms of hypertension. Scientists think this is because watermelon contains citrulline, an amino acid that promotes the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and arteries, making it easier for your blood to flow.In a study reported in the American Journal of Hypertension, subjects who took watermelon extract supplements for six weeks saw a reduction in their blood pressure. Watermelon can be easily incorporated into your diet as a refreshing snack or drink. It can be added to salads or even consumed as a chilled soup.
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