Apr
9
2011

High Blood Pressure

Our heart is an engineering marvel, it is an elegant pump that receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and uses just the right amount of force to push it back through the arteries and out to the body’s tissues.

When all goes well, there is just enough pressure inside the arteries to maintain a steady flow of blood. But such pressure can be affected by exercise, stress, diet, and hormones, as well as by blood loss from menstruation or severe injury. To keep the system working correctly in the face of constantly changing conditions, the heart makes continual adjustments. Its rate of beating speeds up or slows down, and the strength of its contractions increases and decreases. At the same time arteries relax and dilate or contract and constrict, and the kidneys either retain salt and water (thus raising blood pressure) or release salt and water (allowing blood pressure to drop).

Given the intricacy of the system, it’s no surprise that chronically elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common of all diseases. It sneaks up on you – no symptoms, no signs, no warnings. If left untreated, it can lead to a heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. If you don’t get your blood pressure checked regularly, you might never know it’s too high until it’s too late.

Here’s how to tell if you’re at risk. Blood pressure readings have two numbers. The top numbr, called systolic blood pressure, measures the force of your blood against your artery walls as your heart beats. The bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the force between beats. A blood pressure of 120/80 is normal, and anything above 140/90 is high. That means your heart is working too hard to pump blood through your arteries.

As you get older, your risk of high blood pressure skyrockets. Half of all people over 60 have high blood pressure. Some risk factors, such as age and race, can’t be controlled. But you can lose weight and watch what you eat-key ways to manage this dangerous condition.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) recommends cutting down on salt, saturated and total fat, and cholesterol. It also encouragesyou to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy products.

Add the following items to your diet and give your hard-workng heart a rest.

Minerals- like the Three Musketeers, potassium, calcium, and magnesium join forces to duel with high blood pressure. The DASH diet includes two to three times more of these minerals than the average American diet.

Potassium – this vital mineral leads the charge against high blood pressure. It neutralizes sodium, often the enemy when it comes to controlling your blood pressure, by flushing it out in your urine. Potassium also relaxes your blood vessels, which improves blood flow. Eat more peas, beans, apricots, peaches, bananas, prunes, oranges, spinach, stewed tomatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, and figs if you want more potassium in your diet.

Magnesium – this mineral also helps lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels. And it balances the amount of sodium and potassium in your blood cells- less sodium, more potassium. Magnesium-rich foods include whole-wheat breads and cereals, broccoli, chard, spinach, okra, oysters, scallops, sea bass, mackerel, beans, nuts and seeds.

Calcium – people who get very little calcium in their diet often have high blood pressure. Like potassium, calcium works by helping your body get rid of sodium through your urine. Cheese, milk, yogurt, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, mackerel, perch, and salmon are good sources of calcium.

Vitamin C. High C means low blood pressure. Several studies show that people with higher levels of vitamin C in their blood have lower blood pressure-and those with low levels of vitamin C have higher blood pressure.

This antioxidant vitamin reduce high blood pressure by strengthening the connective tissue, or collagen, that supports your blood vessel walls. That makes your blood vessels more capable of handling the pressure of the pumping of blood.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine reported that a daily dose of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C lowered systolic blood pressure an average of 13 points after one month. That would be like eating seven oranges or drinking five glasses of orange juice a day.

Other sources of vitamin C include sweet red peppers, green peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, black currants, brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomato juice, collard green, and cabbage.

Omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated type found in fish, offer help for your high blood pressure.  Most people eat much more omega-6, a polysunsaturated fat found in vegetable oils, than Omega-3.  Your body converts omega- into a substance that constricts your arteries.  That makes your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body, which increases your blood pressure.  Several studies show that eating fish or taking fish oil supplements lowers blood pressure.  That’s because your body converts Omega-3 into a gentler substance that doesn’t tighten your arteries as much.  Switching from omega-6 to omega-3 can be an easy way to lower your blood pressure.

You get omega-3 mainly from fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.  Other foods with Omega-3 include flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, wheat germ, and some green leafy vegetalbes, like collard and turnip greens.

Monosaturated fat.  Further evidence that not all fats are bad comes from olive oil.  This staple of the Mediterranean diet contains mostly monosaturated fat.  In a recent study comparing diets rich in olive oil and sunflower oil, a polyunsaturated fat, the olive oil diet drastically lowered blood pressure while the sunflower seed only lowered it slightly.  The olive oil diet made such a difference that many people on the diet cut in half the amount of blood pressure medication they are taking, under guidance of their doctors.

Fiber. You already know you should eat fiber for protection against heart disease, stroke, and cancer.  Well here’s one more reason.  A four-year follow-up study found that women who ate more than 25 grams of fiber a day were about 25 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure as women who ate less than 10 grams of fiber every day.

Fiber works best over the long term.  don’t get discouraged if your blood pressure doesn’t drop right away.

Garlic.  This fragrant herb does more than add flavor to meals.  It also lowers cholesterol and protects your arteries from clogging.  That way, your blood can zip through with les “oomph” from your heart.  Some studies show garlic lowers your systolic blood pressure by nearly 7 percent and your diastolic blood pressure by almost 8 percent.

DASH recommends using both garlic and onion, as tasty cooking alternatives to salt.

Eating Vegetarian

Going green might bring your blood pressure out of the red zone, but make sure you plan before switching to a vegetarian diet.

Fruits and vegetables  have plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.  You also get very little fat and sodium, and they are cholesterol free.  All that adds up to a great strategy to fight high blood pressure.

Nevertheless, vegetarian often lack protein and iron.  And if you don’t eat fish and cook with only soybean or corn oil, your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids might be way out of whack as well.

To make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need, add these foods to your eating plan-beans and legumes for protein, oatmeal and whole wheat for iron, and walnuts and canola oil for omega-3.

Nicetas

About the Author: Nicetas Juanillo

Writing makes me happy away from home. My website is where you can find my tips about lifestyle, health and other issues. I also have books on my site that you can read to know more

1 Comment + Add Comment

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