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Talking Health with Dr. Carter Healthy blood pressure (part 2)

October 10, 2013

drHeart disease, cardiovascular
disease (CVD), is the
leading cause of death for all
Americans age 35 and older.
This means men and women
among all racial and ethnic
groups. According the Centers
for Disease Control, over
600,000 people died of heart
disease in 2008, 25 percent
of all deaths. In other words,
one in four Americans died
of heart disease in 2008.
Among those with heart
disease, 32 percent are known
to have high blood pressure
(HBP) or hypertension. HBP
damages the blood vessels,
weakening and robbing them
of their inherent flexibility.
This can result in heart attack,
congestive heart failure,
stroke, blindness, and kidney
failure. Called “the silent
killer” because symptoms are
so subtle, even moderately
elevated blood pressure is associated
with a shortened life
expectancy.
High blood pressure is a
major health problem in the
U.S. The CDC estimates that
1 in 3 U.S. adults – about
68 million – has high blood
pressure. In 2008, HBP was
listed as a primary or contributing
cause of death for
more than 347,000 Americans.
African Americans are
especially susceptible, and are
one of the most likely ethnic
groups in the world to receive
the diagnosis. HBP has
also been diagnosed in twothirds
of Americans over 65
and in a growing number of
young adults and children.
Self care
Although considered incurable,
at its base, HBP is
the result of unhealthy lifestyle
choices. Overweight;
diets high in salt, fat, and
alcohol; smoking; chronic
stress; persistent exposure to
toxins; and sedentary habits
are all contributing factors.
Correct any of these and
the result is healthier blood
pressure readings. Correct all
of them and improve health
exponentially. Of course, the
changes must be maintained
or the numbers will go back
up.
“While some people need
drugs to lower their blood
pressure, millions can do it
through diet,” says Norman
Kaplan, MD, the nationally
known blood pressure expert.
Eating an ideal diet not
only lowers blood pressure
but restores damaged blood
vessels, kidneys, hearts, eyes,
and brains. Kaplan agrees
that whole, fresh, and lively
foods are the basis of a
healthy diet.
Eat lots of fresh fruits and
vegetables, especially leafy
greens; grains and legumes;
nuts and seeds; low fat or no
fat dairy foods; lighten up on
meat and put deep water fish
on the menu at least once
a week. This diet ensures
high fiber intake, increased
beneficial fat and decreased
saturated fat, and a beneficial
mineral balance. For many,
weight loss comes automatically.
Consistently recommended
by Nutrition News, these
foods mirror the original
DASH diet, developed for
the NIH by a world class
team of doctors and nutritionists.
The first DASH
study involved 459 individuals
(8,800 applied), sixty percent
of whom were African-
Americans. In the amazing
results of the 12 week study,
reductions in blood pressure
occurred in the first week,
stabilized within two weeks,
and remained low during the
remaining weeks.
Losing weight is another
positive effect of a fresh food
diet. This is sometimes the
only thing people need to do
to bring blood pressure levels
to normal. Even a loss of
ten pounds can make an improvement.
Although HBP
does not necessarily follow a
weight problem, overweight
people are three times more
likely to have it than normal
weight individuals. In fact,
obesity is a key factor in 60
percent of all cases of HBP.
In the US, weight increases
with age. By age 74, half of
us have high blood pressure.
In societies where weight
does not increase with age,
neither does blood pressure.
A natural diet also implies
greater fiber intake and the
use of vegetable-based (rather
than animal-based) fat
sources. Diets with high fiber
and low fat have been shown
to have benefits in reducing
blood pressure. In addition,
studies show high fiber diets
to be effective in preventing
and treating many forms of
heart disease. Further, the
presence of soluble fibers in
the body clears the blood of
toxins such as lead and cadmium,
both higher than normal
in persons with HBP.
A wholesome diet is also
low in sodium and provides
sufficient potassium, magnesium,
and calcium. Denatured
foods like sugar,
hydrogenated fats, caffeine,
and white flour are avoided.
These substances activate
the stress response, using up
nutrients and weakening the
body’s ability to recover from
common stressors.
Beyond diet, other lifestyle
changes can improve the
result. Of course, smoking
is out. Not only is it a major
heart disease risk factor,
nicotine actually constricts
the small blood vessels and
thickens the blood, directly
affecting blood pressure
levels. Additional helpful
behaviors are learning relaxation
techniques, exercising
regularly, and taking nutrient
supplements.