Today's Post: Tuesday, 10-11-2011
It used to be that a blood pressure reading of 120 over 80 was considered normal.
Now it’s becoming more widespread to say that blood pressure of 119 over 79 or a bit less is desirable.
And, to be fair, that’s true as long as your blood pressure isn’t too much lower. A blood pressure of something like 112 over 70 is close to ideal though below that it becomes less so.
Also, recently a study was in the news showing that even for slightly elevated blood pressures such as 135 over 80 or thereabouts tended to be associated with a significantly higher chance of having a stroke. This risk was even higher for blood pressures in the range of 140 over 85 to 150 over 95.
This research or its publicity may have been sponsored by the drug companies.
Why indeed because these results may be perfectly accurate?
Because it’s easy to make the assumption that lowering blood pressures in this range with drugs will solve the problem and is a good idea.
Both lay people and doctors could easily draw that conclusion from these results.
There are indeed several things that people with these slightly to definitely raised blood pressures should do.
But for several reasons, taking drugs to do so may be best avoided.
A large study was done that compared death rates of people from high blood pressure. For people with readings of over 160 over 100 or well over that, taking drugs lowered the death rates. For blood pressures in the 135 over 80 to 150 over 85 range that was NOT true. Apparently the harmful side effects of the drugs and their negative impact on the quality of life for the people taking them was as much or more than the health benefits of taking the drugs at these lower blood pressures.
But if drugs don’t help that much and are obnoxious to take to boot, what should be done for people at increased risk from these less elevated blood pressures that are less than 160 over 100?
There are three things to do. They should also be done IN ADDITION to taking drugs for people with blood pressure readings of over 160 over 100.
1. Remove any causes of the high blood pressure that are still happening!
2. Do things that directly prevent the bad effects of elevated blood pressure.
High blood pressure helps cause strokes, heart attacks, and mental decline. So, it makes superb sense if you have any kind of elevated blood pressure to stop doing other things that cause those problems and do protective things instead.
3. Do things other than drugs that lower high blood pressure.
(This category and the first two often overlap. So many key actions do more than just lower your blood pressure.)
Here are some examples.
a) If you are in a very stressful situation, you may be able to escape it.
If you do that, your blood pressure may go down. If you are good at what you do in a strong market for that talent but your boss is consistently harsh and mean, not just trying to get better results, find a better job! If you can afford to move to slightly smaller house or apartment and where you are has become dangerous since you moved there, move to a smaller place in a better neighborhood. The same thing applies if your commute is so long that you have no time for exercise or your family or enough sleep because of it.
This one is effective. One study of people who lived to be 100 years old found they had often done this sort of thing and much more often than people had who were NOT so long lived.
b) You may smoke or work in a place where you are exposed to a lot of second hand smoke.
This situation CAUSES high blood pressure from increasing the thickness and stiffness of the plaque on your artery walls over time AND keeping your blood pressure a few points higher as you are exposed to it each time you are.
Tobacco smoke also causes heart disease AND triggers heart attacks that people would have avoided without that exposure. And, these same factors make strokes more likely too!
If this applies to you and your blood pressure elevation is low, the priority for you is NOT to take blood pressure drugs. The priority is to escape the tobacco smoke ASAP!
c) Drinking soft drinks daily and also eating refined grain foods and grain fed meats and packaged snacks and desserts helps cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease and strokes. So does the high salt intake this way of eating causes. The cured meats you can avoid eating often also recently have been found to tend to cause heart disease and strokes.
If you stop that completely and eat foods and drink drinks that are NOT like that and include lots of nonstarchy vegetables in what you eat, do you know what happens?
Your blood pressure will go down in some cases as much as if you took two drugs that work well. And with no further effort you will be much less fat!
There are abundant studies to prove this. They even have a name for what to eat and drink instead. It’s called the DASH II diet. Whether your elevated blood pressure is 135 over 80 or 180 over 123, other than adding some spices you like, a very few treats, extra virgin olive oil, and perhaps moderate drinking to that, you should be on a DASH II diet that is customized to you!
The drugs are often obnoxious to be on. And, even if your blood pressure is quite high they are only moderately protective of the things you want to avoid.
The DASH II diet with these modifications is MUCH more protective. People who eat that way have LESS diabetes, obesity, and heart disease and strokes. And, that’s true even if they only get down to a moderately elevated blood pressure.
d) Regular exercise is also critical. People who do it have lower blood pressure and less diabetes, obesity, and heart disease and strokes.
In fact, if you exercise four or five days a week, your blood pressure will be lower on the days you exercise than on the other days.
So the cure is to exercise at least some 6 or 7 days a week even if on some days it’s just for a few minutes.
e) Stress is such an effective driver and cause of high blood pressure, relieving it well has as much blood pressure lowering effect as taking two of the more effective blood pressure drugs. In fact, it can lower your blood pressure when the drugs aren’t even working for you.
Escaping really bad stressful situations when you can safely do so does help.
But there are so many kinds of stress you can’t escape, if you have elevated blood pressure, a stress reliever that works is far more important to you than taking blood pressure drugs unless your blood pressure is over 160 over 100.
And, you would be very well advised to use one if your blood pressure is that high!
For some people mediation works well. For others yoga works well.
But the most reliable and time efficient stress reliever is Tai Chi. You do have to learn it, but one study found people who do Tai Chi most days of the week for just 10 or 20 minutes lowered their high blood pressure by 17 over 11!
And, Tai Chi can be done virtually anywhere. It’s free to do. And once you learn, it’s like learning to swim or ride a bicycle, you can do it whenever you want.
But perhaps best of all, you burn about as many calories in the time you do Tai Chi as you would while walking.
So, if it’s too hot, too wet, too cold, or too dangerous to walk outside, you can still get in that much exercise by just doing Tai Chi inside.
f) There are also some foods and drinks that LOWER your stroke risk.
Eating organic blueberries or dark chocolate, and drinking tea, green tea, or unsweetened cocoa without milk each tends to increase blood flow and reduce your risk of stroke.
Dark chocolate does this much better than milk chocolate. But a recent study even found that people who ate milk chololate often had significantly fewer strokes than people who ate hardly any.
If you have elevated blood pressure either just a bit or quite high, do the best you can to do each of these things!
And, if your blood pressure elevation is low or moderate, do them all ASAP. And do them BEFORE considering taking drugs unless your blood pressure is over 160 over
Doing them is MORE protective than the drugs and these steps have other health benefits instead of obnoxious side effects!