The AP's Mike Stobbe passes along some good news: the government just announced that life expectancy in the U.S. has hit an all-time high of 77.6 years. But, he writes, there are some worrying trends on the horizon:
Half of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group — including the oldest of the baby boomers — have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese. That means they are in worse shape in some respects than Americans born a decade earlier were when they were that age.
In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman has this to say about high blood pressure.
Studies have shown controlling sodium intake and weight loss to be effective in reducing blood pressure, even in the elderly.1 How can you implement these interventions into you lifestyle? It's simple. Eat many more fruits, vegetables, and legumes; eat less of everything else; and engage in a moderate amount of exercise. High blood pressure is relatively simple to control.Dr. Fuhrman tells the story of a patient who followed his advice.
I encourage my patients to do what it takes to normalize their blood pressure so they do not require medication. Prescribing medications for high blood pressure has the effect of a permission slip. Medication has a minimal effect in reducing heart attack occurrence in patients with high blood pressure because it does not remove the underlying problem (atherosclerosis), it just treats the symptom. Patients given medication now falsely believe they are protected, and they continue to follow the same disease-causing lifestyle that caused the problem to begin with, until the inevitable occurs--their first heart attack or stroke. Maybe, if high blood pressure medications were never invented, doctors would have been forced to teach healthful living and nutritional disease causation to their patients. It is possible that many more lives could have been saved.
Though it took a full two years, Rhonda Wilson dropped her weight from 194 to a slim 119. She was able to come off blood pressure medication as a result of her newfound commitment to a healthful lifestyle. When she first came to me, she was on two medications to control her high blood pressure. These two medications were not sufficient, as her blood pressure was still excessively high. Rhonda did not see normal blood pressure readings for a long time and was not able to stop her blood pressure medication until she became relatively thin. Her story illustrates a common dilemma. It is not unusual for some people to lose some weight, yet still have high blood pressure. Some individuals develop high blood pressure and diabetes even from a small amount of excess body fat. For these individuals, it is even more important to maintain an ideal weight.
UPDATE: You can read the whole government report here.
1. Whelton, P.K., L.I. Appel, M. A. Espeland, et al. 1998. Sodium reduction and weight loss in the treatment of hypertension in older persons: a randomized controlled trial of nonpharmacologic interventions in the elderly. JAMA 279:839-46.