Tag Archives: Blood pressure

Blueberries lower BP and raise nitric oxide levels

English: A pack of blueberries from a organic ...

English: A pack of blueberries from a organic farm co-op program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News about blueberries. A small study—48 post-menopausal women who were pre- or stage 1 hypertensive—showed that participants who took 22 grams (that’s .77 of an ounce for those of us who are gram-challenged) of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to one cup of the fresh fruit) every day for a month lowered their blood pressure and limbered up their arteries compared to those who took a placebo. And they lost 10 pounds!

No. Just kidding on that last one.

But they did lower their systolic (top number) blood pressure by 5% and their diastolic (bottom number) BP by 6%, raised their nitric oxide (NO) levels by a whopping 68.5% and decreased arterial stiffness by 6.5%, as reported in a paper by Sarah A. Johnson and several other exercise and nutrition professors. Johnson is assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University.

Previous studies had shown impressive benefits for blueberries, but most involved consuming huge quantities (13 cups per day in one study).

My calculations say you’d have to spend between $58.50 and $78 a month for the cup-a-day dose – and none of that would be covered by insurance.

The cost of blood pressure medication (angiotensin receptor blocker ARB) varies wildly, depending on the type prescribed and the place you buy it. One site gives ARB prices ranging from a discounted $9 to a top price of $183 for a 30-day supply.

A caveat: The study was paid for by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The Council is industry-funded and is in the business of marketing blueberries. But at least the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service monitors their operations.

Another study done at University of California Davis states that consuming freeze-dried blueberry powder in smoothies every day can increase insulin sensitivity—and is thus very good for anyone at risk of developing type II diabetes, a risk that increases for Baby Boomers as they age. Note: Participants had to cut back 500 calories on other foods to accommodate the calories in the two smoothies each day.

So it looks like freeze-dried blueberry powder is a nutritionally equivalent substitute for the fresh fruit at a similar price—plus it keeps longer and is easier to store.And while the fruit will never replace your blood pressure meds, it still might be a worthwhile investment to get some o’ that blueberry powder.

 

New guidelines suggest fewer blood pressure meds – and the fight is on

A multidisciplinary panel of medical experts agreed recently to raise the blood pressure limits for people over 60 and people with kidney disease. Instead of 140/90 the new top limit is 150/90 for people over 60.  For people with diabetes or kidney disease it’s changed from 130/80 to 140/90. The result is your doctor has more leeway for diagnosing you as an individual.

Yes, it says raise the limit. Shocking, eh? The trend, as seen so clearly with the cholesterol meds, has been to keep lowering the “desired” limit – and thus end up forcing more and more people to take medications. Wonder what happened here?

English: A jar for keeping medical leeches, on...

English: A jar for keeping medical leeches, on display in Bedford Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, hey, the fight is not over. Five of the panel’s 20 experts dissented. That is, they disagreed with the majority, just as happens with our Supreme Court. Only the thing is, when judges dissent, the majority decision becomes law anyway. That doesn’t happen in medicine.

Rather than the majority ruling settling the issue in the medical world, the opinions of the minority nay-sayers become the news story instead. Witness the article in the March, 2014 issue of the AARP Bulletin. It focuses on the dire warnings of the dissenters who claim that changing the guidelines will nullify the advances that have occurred in lowering risks.

The result is that patients have little clarity about where they really stand. Which is why it is so very important to find a doctor you respect, who sees you as an individual human being and who respects you for your own “medical mind.”  (see my other posts on using your medical mind).

Just remember. At one time doctors were certain that applying leeches to the patient’s skin was a cure for sickness. And – unlike the occasional pharmaceutical purveyor – the leeches weren’t offering any incentives for the doctors to use them.

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Nitric oxide is key to deciphering blood flow

Our circulatory system creates NO to regulate itself. High cholesterol can impede that process.

Biomedical engineers at Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems are busy constructing a mathematical model to explain how blood vessels regulate the flow of blood. Specifically they’re looking at the ways nitric oxide (NO) is produced by cells in our circulatory system, where it dilates blood vessels and thus controls blood pressure and flow. NO also helps the immune system respond to injuries and infections.

The National Institutes of Health’s Heart, Lung and Blood group is funding this research to the tune of $3.3 million, since “defects in nitric oxide in blood and tissues can lead to many diseases,” including the biggie: heart disease. The team has  already discovered new ways in which NO is produced. Now they’ll be using a flow chamber to identify location and time data that will make their model even more useful to scientists.

The coolest thing about this is that the model will be open-source – meaning anyone anywhere in the world who has the skills and wants to try to improve it can do so.

Another step forward in identifying nature’s secrets of healing.

 

Lower your blood pressure with beet juice – or kale, or spinach, or…

Beet juice

Beet juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know that green vegetables – and really any vegetable with deep coloring such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, etc. – are especially good for us. But usually we know this only in the vaguest way. So it’s nice to get simple, specific proofs of why this is so. For example this recent study, conducted with only a small sampling of people, gives definitive evidence that drinking a glass of beet juice will lower your blood pressure.

Beets and all green, leafy vegetables are full of nitrates, which our bodies eventually turn into nitric oxide – the stuff that relaxes our blood vessels and helps our blood flow better, thus lowering blood pressure. Apparently beet juice is available on most grocery shelves in the U.K. where the study was done, but here in the U.S. we might need to hit the health food store to find it.

The study found that in men with hypertension, the beet juice lowered their blood pressure significantly (up to 5 points) within about 3 hours of drinking. Other studies have found even greater reductions (up to 10 points). The sample of people in this study was too small to be definitive for women (they didn’t control for age and medications). But it’s reasonable to think it works the same way for females. And works the same with other green, leafy vegetables.

The most fascinating part, reported on another source, says that if your blood pressure is already okay, the same dose of beet juice will lower it just a little bit. Isn’t that interesting? As if the beet root has an internal intelligence that knows what the right level is and gauges how much help your blood pressure needs. What a magical idea, that plants might have such sensitivities.

Of course, the URL of this second source (www.willitsnews.com/marijuananews/…) could indicate the authors might be more inclined to look for the magical side of the story.

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Too much salt not just bad for blood pressure

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 29:  In this photo illus...

Good source of potassium - Image by Getty Images via @daylife

We’ve all heard since we were young, if you have high blood pressure you have to  cut your salt. Now scientists have found more people with high salt levels are dying of cardiovascular and all other causes—when they also have low potassium levels.

Sodium is known to  raise blood pressure and stiffen arteries. Potassium activates nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries and combats high blood pressure. Sodium also interferes with the body’s ability to use nitric oxide. Read more at National Institutes of Health on sodium-potassium.

A poor ratio of salt to potassium is found with more deaths from cardiovascular causes and from all causes. It’s a question of balance, according to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And of course, the study does not say that the high-salt-low-potassium levels are what actually killed people—just that many deaths were associated with the poor ratio. Other causes could certainly be more directly responsible for the deaths they counted. Perhaps a reasonable conclusion we might make is that if you eat too much salt you might also be prone to make other less-than-ideal lifestyle and nutrition choices.  Geez, these days we can’t get away with anything…

?esky: Tonometr English: Automatic brachial sp...

Image via Wikipedia

But either way, folks with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure must carefully ration consumption of foods high in sodium–which includes almost anything you buy in packages or eat in restaurants—and eat lots of foods high in potassium. Thankfully there are dozens of tasty foods loaded with it, so most people don’t have to look to supplements. Like have a baked potato—one of the richest and best-tasting sources of potassium you can get. By the way, start gradually substituting no-fat yogurt for your sour cream. Then when you use just yogurt on your baked potato you get another boost to potassium along with other nutrition benefits.

Studies show that Americans get about 75% of their sodium from prepared foods and restaurant meals. I’ve personally found that if I eat mostly fresh foods and those I cook from scratch, I don’t have to totally avoid salting my food. So it may be that if you don’t get the gross overload of sodium from prepared foods, there’s room for enough salt to safely make your own cooked foods taste very good. Naturally, though, your doctor is the last word on all of this.

Have a happy, healthy new year—and eat some spinach in your scrambled eggs tomorrow to combat the potato chips and cheese in your NYE feast tonight…

 

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Summer=watermelon=nitric oxide=lower blood pressure

Watermelons

Image via Wikipedia

Yep. Eating watermelon boosts your nitric oxide which in turn lowers your blood pressure, according to this report.  It’s not that watermelon introduces NO directly into your body. Rather, your body converts into nitric oxide a substance watermelon has lots of, L-citrulline.

The Emory University professor says this juicy fruit is also full of lycopene, the antioxidant carotene that tomatoes have been bragging about for years now. Good to hear, I guess. ‘Cuz I always thought the watermelon my parents served us out in the yard some hot summer nights was just a big messy excuse for spitting stuff out—an activity normally proscribed by good manners.

Reminds me of the time I discovered a new nutritional fact about one of my favorite vegetables, green beans. I’d wondered for years what the hell made these little guys so tasty since I couldn’t find any listing showing they had any  significant quantities of any known-to-be-valuable vitamins or minerals. And then scientists discovered flavonoids—and wow, turns out green beans promote the production of NO and are really good for us. I’m guessing the same thing may happen one day with other foods that people love but for which scientists haven’t yet figured out redeeming nutritional values.

Potato chips

Image via Wikipedia

I’m wishing potato chips would fall into that category one day.

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