Tag Archives: Hypertension

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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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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