Posted in Health

How Not to Die from High Blood Pressure

It’s strange that I’m starting my website with this post because although I’m conscious of leading a healthy lifestyle (exercise and nutrition), I don’t do a lot of reading in the subject area. However, my wife wanted me to read a chapter from Michael Greger‘s book How Not to Die and I thought, why not begin this website by posting a summary of what he has to say about high blood pressure (which I may be developing).

Who is Michael Greger? He is a medical doctor who has specialized in the role nutrition plays in addressing disease and in maintaining good health.

He notes that the medical journal Lancet identified the number-one risk factor for death in the world as being high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 while anything above 140/90 is typically considered hypertensive. Increased blood pressure puts strain on the heart, damage blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke. Ideally though, blood pressure should be 110/70.

High blood pressure seems to be a chronic condition of Western society that worsens as people grow older whereas people in Africa of the same age who naturally eat a low sodium, planted based diet, show no such issue.

So how can one reduce blood pressure?

Reduce Sodium. The two most prominent risks for death and disability in the world may be not eating enough fruit and eating too much salt. Too much sodium causes water retention which leads the body to raise blood pressure needed to push excess water out of the body. Reducing salt in one’s diet is as simple as avoiding salty (processed) foods and not adding salt to food.

Eating More Whole Grains. Eating three portions of whole grains (oats, whole wheat, brown rice) per day has been shown to provide the same reduction in heart attack and strokes as high blood pressure medications and without the adverse side affects these medications often cause. Eating additional “whole foods” (vegetables, fruits, beans…) will also remedy and improve arterial health.

What about the DASH Diet? DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This diet was explicitly designed to create eating patterns that would have the blood pressure lowering benefits of a vegetarian diet yet contain enough animal products to make them palatable to non-vegetarians. The blood pressure lowering benefit of this diet comes from the increased plants eaten, but its impact is not as great as moving totally to a vegetarian diet.

Add these Foods for Additional Hypertension Protection: Raw and cooked vegetables, non-alcoholic red wine.

Add Flaxseed. Eating just a few tablespoons of flaxseed a day is two to three times more powerful in lowering blood pressure than participating in aerobic endurance exercises programs or taking anti-hypertensive drugs .

Add Hibiscus Tea for Hypertension. This tea is derived from the Hibiscus flower and is not only a more effective antioxidant than green tea, but can lower blood pressure. Drink one cup at each meal.

The Power of NO. Nitric oxide (NO) is a biological messenger that tells the muscle fibers within the walls of your arteries to open up to allow more blood flow. Nitric oxide is produced naturally by an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase which is, however, inhibited by free radicals (unstable atoms) produced by internal and external sources connected to inflammation and pollutants to name just a couple of sources. To extinguish these free radicals one must flood the body with antioxidant rich plant foods so that the nitric oxide synthase can then keep the arteries fully functional. Eating beets and greens (Arugula, Rhubarb, Cilantro, Butter lead lettuce, Mesclun greens, Basil, Beet greens, Oak leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, and Beets) also boosts the body’s ability to make nitric oxide.

So I’ll have to take this advice “to heart” and find another way to die.

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