Possibly Lower High Blood Pressure with a Vegetarian Diet
A few years back I received a phone call from one of the local hospitals and was told that my husband had been taken by ambulance to the emergency room. I'll cut to the chase and let you know right away that the reason for this particular panic was that his blood pressure had spiked to 170/110, and he thought he was having a heart attack.
While he probably qualified as overweight at the time, he was a good number of pounds shy of obese and actually in pretty good shape. He was attentive to the signals his body was sending, but he did nothing to address those signals. The hypertension he had then and takes medication for now went unaddressed until he had some time to contemplate mortaltiy in the back of an ambulance.
Hypertension usually does not provide too many warning signs, and is often referred to as the silent killer. Although my husband's body put him on alert, he paid no attention and was among the one-third of Americans who run the risk for heart attack or stroke from high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure 101
The standard for a healthy blood pressure is 120/80. The top number, or systolic blood pressure, is a measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts. The bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure, is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart is still and refilling with blood.
Each increase of 20/10 doubles the risk for cardiovascular disease. A lowering of the top number by only 5 reduces the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease by 7 percent, and a new study published in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that eating more fruits and vegetables might be just the way to do that.
Analyzing the Data
Researchers analyzed data from seven published clinical trials and 32 observational studies involving 311 participants in the clinical trials and 21,000 particiants in the observational studies. Only studies that assessed the association between a vegetarian diet and high blood pressure were used.
The subjects in the clinical trials who ate a vegetarian diet had a systolic pressure that was 4.8 lower on average and a diastolic pressure that was 2.2 lower. Those in the observational study fared even better with an average decrease of 6.9 for systolic pressure and 4.7 for diastolic pressure.
There are a number of possible reasons for these outcomes, such as vegetarian diets are often lower in sodium and saturated fats and higher in fiber and potassium. Vegetables and fruits are also less energy dense and vegetarians tend to have lower body mass.
The results of the study are pretty straight forward. Eating more fruits and vegeatbles could help to lower your blood pressure. It is also suggested that sodium intake be monitored and that excessive alcohol consumption be avoided.
One of the limitations of the study was the failure to adjust for lifestyle factors, such as exercise and alcohol intake, in some of the observational studies.
Living life well-fed,
My Bariatric Life
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