Lower Blood Pressure with Food

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

High blood pressure is one of the most common health conditions affecting Americans.

If you’re middle-aged, your chance of developing the disease is a whopping 90%.1

The question doesn't become if for most people; it’s really about how to treat the condition.

And in a medical system where prescriptions take precedence over lifestyle changes, nutritional advice is often lacking.

Below, we’ll cover several foods worth including in your diet that may help. And take notes, as some of these may come as a bit of a surprise!

Flaxseed for Lower Blood Pressure

Not eating flaxseed? Time to rethink that fast. Eating 30 grams of milled flaxseed every day was found to lower systolic blood pressure by an average of 15 mm Hg in participants who had a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher.2

Luckily, ground flaxseed can be incorporated into almost any dish without significantly changing its flavor.

Beets for Lower Blood Pressure

Beets are one of the richest dietary sources of nitrates. These compounds convert to nitric oxide in your body which allows your blood vessels to dilate.

In an experiment, participants drinking 1 cup of beet root juice saw their systolic blood pressure levels drop an average of 11 mm Hg.3

Pomegranates for Lower Blood Pressure

Pomegranates are chock-full of heart-healthy antioxidants. Of special interest is blood-pressure-lowering punicalagins. You’ll find them in pomegranate juice and supplements.

When scientists tested the effect of pomegranate juice on blood pressure over a 1-year period, they found that it lowered systolic blood pressure by 21 points.4

Pretty impressive, if you ask us.

Sesame Oil for Lower Blood Pressure

Sesame seeds are small, but their health benefits are larger than life. In fact, just cooking with sesame oil was associated with a 20-point drop in systolic blood pressure.5

The culprit: sesame lignans. They reduce levels of a potent vasoconstrictor called 20-HETE.6

The DASH diet Lowers Blood Pressure

One of the most popular diets known to lower blood pressure levels is called the DASH diet. Research shows it can lower blood pressure between 7 to 12 points.7

The plan focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and restricting sodium and animal products.

Can Cutting Back on Salt Really Help Lower Blood Pressure?

Not all cases of hypertension are salt-sensitive, but on average cutting back on salt may reduce systolic readings between 2 to 8 points.

Our verdict: We think it’s worth a shot. Cut back on salt and see if it makes a difference. There’s nothing more convincing than solid, direct proof.

Don’t Ditch Your Blood Pressure Meds!

To clarify, we’re not suggesting that you stop taking your medications. we're simply advocating a lifestyle that may very well help to improve your condition.

Who knows? Instead of taking three medications, you may end up taking just one. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference.

What About You?

Were you able to manage your blood pressure by making better dietary choices? Please share your experience in the comments!

References:

  1. JAMA. 2002 Feb 27;287(8):1003-10. 
  2. Hypertension. 2013 Dec;62(6):1081-9. 
  3. Hypertension. 2013 May;61(5):1091-102. 
  4. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):423–433. 
  5. J Med Food. 2006;9(3):408–412. 
  6. Hypertension. 2009 Nov;54(5):1151–1158. 
  7. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 4;344(1):3-10.

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Pine Bark Boosts Brain Power

By Michael A. Smith, MD


As people get older, they often start to notice that their cognitive abilities are not as sharp as they used to be.

It’s no longer as easy as it once was to recall names, places or even songs. And things like misplacing keys seems to become more commonplace.

Chronic stress also produces similar changes, making it more difficult to store and retrieve memories, regardless of age. These cognitive changes seem innocent enough, but they can impact your life.

But instead of letting nature take its course, there is something you can do about it. A study showed pine bark extract from the tree Pinus pinaster could enhance cognitive function.

Pine bark extract is now being recognized as an anti-aging supplement with notable positive effects on neurological and cognitive health. Let’s get into the details of the study, shall we?

Pine Bark Extract Study on Career-Minded Professionals

Are there better subjects for a study on cognition than stressed-out professionals? You know (you might be one of them), the go-go-go, career-minded, "informationholics" of our 24-hour digital culture — whose mental performance is directly tied to the stress they feel.

For many career-minded people, days of mental sharpness and low stress are often followed by days filled with mental fatigue and excessive stress. A 12-week study gauged the effects of pine bark extract on cognition, attention, and mental performance in motivated professionals. In total, 60 people were screened for increased oxidative stress, likely generated from work-related and lifestyle issues.1

But let’s be clear: The subjects were healthy, had no addictions, and were not at significant risk for disease. Half of the subjects took 150 mg of pine bark extract each day; the other half was the control group. Information on diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and lifestyle patterns was collected throughout the study.

Pine Bark Extract Improved Cognition

Overall, improvement in all measurements was more significant in subjects taking pine bark extract than in controls.

Plasma-free radicals (a measure of oxidative stress) were significantly decreased, and cognitive tests showed a small but significant improvement with pine bark extract versus the control group.1

Mood parameters, like alertness and anxiety, also improved in professionals using the supplement. Interestingly, 12 professional daily tasks all improved as well.1

References

1. J Neurosurg Sci. 2014 Mar 28. [Epub ahead of print]

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What About Vitamin B12?


Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble member of the B-complex family.

It plays a vital role in metabolism, DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and nerve function.

It was discovered by Nobel Prize winners George Minot and William P. Murphy in their search for the cause of the disease known as pernicious anemia.

Does Vitamin B12 Really Give You Energy?

A common belief concerning vitamin B12 is that it gives us energy. However, energy in the human body has just one source: calories.

Nevertheless, anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency often results in fatigue and weakness, which when corrected can restore energy to normal levels.

Vitamin B12 Deficiencies Can Be Deadly

Vitamin B12 and folate work together in several ways. Both are involved in the formation of red blood cells.

When either nutrient is lacking, red blood cells that are larger than normal (macrocytosis) can form and crowd out healthy, red blood cells. This can lead to anemia.

The consequences of pernicious anemia (from a lack of vitamin B12) are more serious than those resulting from folate-deficiency anemia, due to the importance of B12 to the nerves.

Pernicious ("deadly") anemia can damage the brain and spinal cord, possibly resulting in irreversible neuropathies or cognitive dysfunction. Without treatment, the disease can even be deadly.

B12 Deficiencies May Cause Dementia

Because vitamin B12 is needed for proper brain function, adequate blood levels are essential for optimal cognition. Although dementia can have several different causes, a B12 deficiency is one that is easily correctable.

Older men and women who experience memory problems should ask their doctor for a vitamin B12 blood test. The early stages of B12 deficiency can be determined with a urinary methylmalonic acid test.

Vitamin B12 Maintains Healthy Homocysteine Levels

Vitamin B12, along with vitamin B6 and folate, are used by the body to maintain safe blood levels of homocysteine. When elevated, this amino acid has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

If your blood test for total homocysteine is higher than 8 micromoles per liter (mmol/L), make sure your intake of B vitamins is adequate. For many people, this requires supplementation.

Where to Find Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 occurs mainly in animal-sourced foods, including meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, and fortified cereals. For this reason, some vegans and vegetarians are deficient, making supplementation essential.

People whose stomachs fail to make sufficient acid or who take acid-blocking drugs may not derive enough vitamin B12 from the food they eat. Additionally, some individuals lack a protein known as intrinsic factor which is needed for B12 absorption.

To get sufficient levels, these people often obtain the vitamin via injection. Vitamin supplements usually contain low amounts of folic acid because higher doses of this vitamin can mask a B12 deficiency.

If you are consuming more than 1,000 milligrams folic acid per day, it is a good idea to also supplement with vitamin B12!

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Can You Really Extend Your Life?


While the Bible records a human life span of up to 969 years, the prospect of surviving for nearly a millennium (or more) is the stuff of science fiction in our times.

A number of people claim to be older, but the oldest person on record is Jeanne Calment of France, who lived for 122 years.

She established for humans what is known, in the field of gerontology, as maximum life span. That is, the maximum number of years a person could potentially live.

This is not to be confused with life expectancy, which is the number of years one can expect to survive in a given area of the world during a given period of time.

How Long Can People Expect to Live in the US?

From 2013-2014, life expectancy in California, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, and parts of New England was 80 to 81.3 years, in comparison with 77.2 to 78.4 years in many of the Southern states.

Life expectancy also varies according to gender and race, with women and Asian Americans coming out ahead of men and non-Asians in the U.S.

Although life expectancy has increased in the United States with each passing year, maximum life span is believed by some researchers to be a fixed limit. This means that while more people may live increasingly longer lives, none will exceed 122 years of age.

How Long Can Animals Live?

The maximum life span of animals varies widely. The Arctica islandica clam holds the record for longest lived, with a maximum life span potential of 508 years.

Other animals with long life potentials are the bowhead whale (211 years), red sea urchin (200 years), and lake sturgeon (157 years).

While mainly invisible to the public eye, gerontology research is "alive" with longevity discoveries that appear on a regular basis in scientific journals. Genetic engineering, dietary modifications that include nutritional supplementation or calorie restriction, pharmaceuticals, and other therapies have resulted in a significant extension of life.

Numerous studies have documented an increase in average life span in animal models ranging from fruit flies to primates. Due to the nature of this research, which usually involves observing an animal such as a roundworm or mouse throughout its life, studies such as these would be impractical to conduct on humans.

Nevertheless, the findings of experimental studies are the basis for a number of therapies that the more adventurous among us are more than willing to try. What is even more exciting are the studies that have resulted in an extension of maximum life span.

The significance of these findings is that the maximum life span of humans and other species may not be "set in stone," and that there may soon be a way to exceed it.

Calorie Restriction is Linked to Longevity

Calorie restriction has been tested in a variety of species over the past several decades and has been demonstrated to extend both average and maximum life span. Yet the technique is difficult for most people to implement.

Resveratrol, pterostilbene, and other compounds that target some of the same molecular pathways as calorie restriction could result in some of the same benefits.

While thousands of men and women have availed themselves of these compounds it is, of course, too soon to tell whether they will extend maximum lifespan.

The only other means shown to increase the maximum life span of a species is genetic engineering, which may one day be employed to lengthen human life.

The Bottom Line

Gerontologists recommend doing whatever it takes to prolong our lives and to avail ourselves of other life-extending therapies.

What are your thoughts?

References:

1. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Dec 17.

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Hepatitis C: The Silent Epidemic

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez

Hepatitis C is taking our country by surprise. Over three million people are infected with the virus and the numbers are expected to rise. The “baby boomers” are at particular risk.1

The problem is that almost half of the adults who are infected are completely unaware of it.2

In the early stages, hepatitis C may not produce any symptoms.3

If left untreated the disease may progress to liver failure or even death, making early detection extremely important.

Luckily, blood testing can help to detect those that are infected and can potentially save lives. Early detection can definitely change the course of the disease.

Hepatitis C is Spread Through Blood

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus. It primarily affects the liver, where it can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, cancer, or other complications. It’s also the leading cause of liver transplants in adults.4 The virus is spread through blood.

The most common way to transmit the disease is by sharing contaminated needles. Other possible risk factors include body piercing, tattooing, and sharing toothbrushes, razor blades, or nail clippers. Sexual transmission is possible though not as common. A blood transfusion prior to 1992 (prior to screening) increases the risk as well.5,6

The course of the disease varies between people. Between 15-25% will clear the virus from the body and not develop liver disease. The rest will develop chronic hepatitis C, with approximately 5-20% of those developing cirrhosis.1

Everyone Born between 1945-1965 Should Get Tested for Hepatitis C

More than 75% of the HCV-infected adults are in their 50s and 60s.7 The reason this group is most affected is unknown. It’s believed that most were infected in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when transmission rates were highest.

The CDC urges everyone born between 1945 through 1965 to get a hepatitis C blood test.

Earlier Treatment Equals Better Outcomes for Hepatitis C

The earlier the disease is detected, the higher the chances for a successful treatment. Hepatitis C usually lingers in the body for decades until it damages the liver. The two most common therapies are interferon and ribavirin.

Treatments are grueling and can take as long as 6 months to a year. A new drug called Sovaldi has been shown to cure 90% of patients with relatively few side effects.8

Supplements May Help with Hepatitis C

There are various supplements that may help to increase the effectiveness of traditional therapies and alleviate the symptoms associated with the disease. Studies have shown benefits for milk thistle, SAMe, lactoferrin, and NAC.

Want additional information? See our Hepatitis C protocol. There you’ll find lots of additional information and nutritional suggestions.

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/. Accessed September 17, 2014. 
  2. Public Health Rep. 2012 Jul-Aug; 127(4): 407–421. 
  3. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 May;103(5):1283-97; quiz 1298. 
  4. Am J Transplant. 2014 May;14(5):994-1002. 
  5. Transfusion. 2007 Apr;47(4):615-20. 
  6. Ann Intern Med. 2006 May 16;144(10):705-14. 
  7. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/in-depth/hepatitis-c-and-baby-boomers/art-20090585 
  8. Available at: http://www.sovaldi.com/what-is-sovaldi/how-does-sovaldi-work. Accessed September 17, 2014.

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