The Number 1 Risk Factor For Early Death Is High Blood Pressure (1)
But for most people it is reversible, so please read on!
High blood pressure kills and disables people everyday.
This is because it destroys your cardiovascular system which brings life to every part of your body. When high BP has had its way it cuts off the life-blood. Some consequences of high blood pressure are:
- Heart attacks - common cause of sudden death
- Heart failure - reduced physical ability & early death
- Strokes - leading to death or life in a nursing home
- Reduced blood flow to your brain - dementia
- Kidney failure - leading to no energy or life on dialysis
- Aneurysms - a cause of sudden death if they pop
- Burst blood vessels - in an eye this causes blindness
What Is High Blood Presure?
Healthy BP is 120/80 and below for all adults, regardless of age.
Your blood pressure is high if it's 140/90 and above. The higher it is the higher your risk of it debilitating or killing you. This is the reality for many people if nothing (or not enough) is done to bring it down.
Anything in between is considered 'pre-hypertensive', and if you don't make changes you'll end up with high blood pressure given time.
Is It Normal For Blood Pressure To Increase With Age?
With age BP tends to get higher and higher, at least in the West. Many people accept that this is a normal part of getting older - just like getting grey hair and wrinkles in your skin. But it isn't!
In 1920s a study was done comparing the BP of native Kenyans with Americans and Europeans (2). Up until age 40 the BP of the Kenyans remained similar to that of the Americans and Europeans, averaging 125/80 - but after that things changed.
Westerners BP increased the older they got, but by the age of 65 the Kenyans BP have dropped to an average of 110/70.
As they got older native Kenyans BP actually got lower!
Among other things the Kenyan's diet was very different - much more whole plant-based eating, and much less meat and dairy.
Since that study the average Western diet has massively deteriorated and rates of high BP have sky-rocketed.
What Effect Does Diet Have On Blood Pressure?
In the West the only group of people who are able to routinely achieve healthy blood pressure levels as they get older are vegetarians (3).
Interestingly there is a step-wise reduction in high BP rates with the more plant-based and less animal-based you go with your food choices.
A study looked at people who ate meat more than once per week (4) and compared their risk of having high blood pressure to people eating differently:
- Those eating meat a few times per month = 23% lower rates of high BP
- Those eating no meat, fish, eggs or dairy (wholefood vegans) = 75% lower rates of high BP
The more fruit, veg, and wholegrains, along with seeds and nuts helps an aging body maintain a healthy blood pressure. This is basically what the Kenyan's were eating in the previous study mentioned.
What you chose to eat has a powerful effect on your BP.
Beetroot Juice Anyone?
A diet rich in antioxidants gives your body the raw materials it needs to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Lack of antioxidants is a big reason a body deteriorates as it gets older. The typical refined Western diet which is lacking in plant-based food seriously lacks antioxidants.
By eating plenty of antioxidant rich food (unprocessed plant-based food with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables) you'll give your body what it needs to keep your arteries relaxed, and your BP healthy.
Most research about blood pressure is funded by pharmaceutical companies and is about treatment involving drugs. But here's one with difference.
A study looking at beetroot and its effect on high BP was funded by the British Heart Foundation. (6). Half of the people in the study were given 125ml of beetroot juice daily for 4 weeks. The other half were given something that looked and tasted the same, but wasn't beetroot.
The BP of the beetroot group went down and the benefits grew as time went on.
The conclusion of this study - "nitrate rich vegetables may prove to be both cost effective, affordable, and favourable for a public health approach to hypertension".
Lots of other plant-based food contains even higher levels of nitrate than beetroot. Nitrates are one of the raw ingredients your body needs to maintain a healthy BP.
The whole story about diet and blood pressure is included in Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally and the first session is available for free.
An Interesting Conspiracy Theory..
Our culture in the West seems to be set up to make us dependable, rather than empowered. This seems really obvious to me regarding health as I work day to day in the NHS, and see more and more people being slapped on loads of medication for high BP - a reversible condition.
It's interesting to look at where money comes in when something looks crazy - like making people dependent on daily chemicals to control something that could be reversed and not need treatment at all.
Hypertension generates shit-loads of money for pharmaceutical companies, and they fund most research into high blood pressure. Guidelines that doctors work to when treating your high blood pressure are based on available research.
Research costs money and drugs make a lot of money. Beetroot and natural food doesn't, so there won't be much money going into researching food.
Meanwhile our food is bastardized and marketed to us as healthy. We need nutrition to build and maintain a healthy body. As the Western diet becomes more and more refined and heavy in animal-based protein populations in the West are getting sicker and sicker.
A questioning mind might even wonder if the food industry is taking a backhander from the pharmaceutical industry to provide future custom!
To compound that the medical profession doesn't get training in nutrition, but learns a lot about drugs. But even if your GP was well versed in how nutrition can help lower your BP, they wouldn't have time. It's far quicker to put people on pills than explain how they can lower their own BP.
So where does that leave you?
Taking more responsibility for your own health than perhaps you have done up until now.
If you'd like help to make you independent of a lifetime of pills you can learn how to do that at Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally. The first session of available for free.
What Can You Do To Reduce Blood Pressure?
If you have high blood pressure there is a lot you can do without medication to help yourself and get your blood pressure down.
However, if you are already on medication DO NOT stop them!
Making lifestyle changes will reduce your BP over time and it may be possible to reduce and even stop your pills at some point, but you'll need to work with your doctor.
If you haven't had a BP check within the last 12 months - get one! If it's high you may need pills to control it initially, to make you safer. But longer term you can help yourself and possibly come off them.
Eating unprocessed food with an abundance and variety of fruit and vegetables, along with wholegrains, seeds and nuts, and pulses is really important in lowering your blood pressure.
- Reduce salt
- Moderate your alcohol intake
- Reduce stimulants like caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Control stress
- Get enough sleep
- Take regular exercise
- Check out BP blogs for more free info
(1) Bromfield S, Munter P. High blood pressure: the leading global burden of disease risk factor and the need for worldwide prevention programs. Curr Hypertens Rep 2013
(2) Donnison CP. Blood pressure in the African native. Lancet 1929
(3) Sacks FM, Kass EH. Low blood pressure in vegetarians: effects of specific food and nutrients. Am J Clin Nutr 1988
(4) Fraser GE. Vegetarian diets: what do we know of there effects on common chronic diseases? Am J Clin Nutr 2009
(5) Fontana L, Meyer TE, Klein S, Holloszy JO. Long-term low calorie low protein vegan diet and endurance exercise are associated with lower cardio-metabolic risk. Rejuvenation Res 2007
(6) Kapil V, Khambata RS, Robertson A, Caulfield MJ, Ahluwalia A. Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients. Hypertension 2015
(7) Lozano R, Naghavi M, Foreman K, et al. Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups on 1990 and 2010. Lancet 2012
(8) Drewnowski A, Rehm CD. Sodium intakes of US children and adults from foods and beverages by location and origin by specific food course. Nutrients 2013
(9) Swallow This. Joanna Blythman