Many people believe that it is normal for blood pressure to rise as we age, but this is not true. Cultures whose diet does not contain excessive added fats, animal protein and salt, and is high in fresh, whole plant foods do not experience the age-related increase in blood pressure that we see in the Western world.1,2 These age-related elevations in blood pressure are not related to age itself – instead they are due to the cumulative destructive effects of a poor diet and insufficient exercise on the circulatory system over years and years.
Hypertension (blood pressure at or greater than 140/90) is on the rise – between 1996 and 2006, hypertension prevalence in the U.S. increased by 20%.3 More recent results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health have produced an estimate that 19% of young adults (24 to 32 years old) have hypertension.
Plus, more than half of these individuals were unaware that they had high blood pressure. This 19% figure is markedly higher than previous estimates, and was based on in-home measured blood pressure in 2008 in a population of over 15,000 participants.4,5 This elevated blood pressure will only progress as they continue to harm their blood vessels with salt and processed food.
If almost 1 in 5 already have blood pressure higher than 140/90 by age 32, just imagine how much trouble this generation is in. First of all, the risk of death from heart attack and stroke begins to increase when blood pressure climbs over 115/75.6 Plus, high blood pressure is an important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, kidney disease, stomach cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, hardening of the arteries, arrhythmia, blindness, and enlargement of the heart.7-11
Many people in this age group, who were born between 1976 and 1984, have grown up on diets made up primarily of processed foods and fast food, and this study has revealed that their bodies are starting to show signs of the damage. If they do not change their habits, they will be prescribed medication that they will have to take for the rest of their lives to control their blood pressure. But this will not remove the cause of the problem, and will put them at risk for harmful side effects. And their poor lifestyle habits will continue to cause worsening of their cardiovascular disease. Of course, this outcome is avoidable with lifestyle changes. This generation of young adults can enjoy a long, healthy life without blood pressure-lowering medication by starting to follow these guidelines now:
How to reduce blood pressure naturally
Avoid salt. A population-wide 1200 mg decrease in sodium consumption has been estimated to reduce coronary heart disease cases by 60,000, strokes by 32,000, and heart attacks by 54,000 each year. Plus, remember that salt does damage unrelated to blood pressure too.
Avoid added sugars.
Minimize caffeine and alcohol.
Focus preferably on plant protein rather than animal protein.12,13
Get plenty of minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants by eating primarily whole plant foods. For example, flavonoids from berries have a blood pressure-lowering effect, and nuts can enhance endothelial cell function, which promotes proper blood pressure regulation. Also, a dietary pattern high in fruits and vegetables is consistently associated with healthy blood pressure levels in observational studies.14-16
Exercise regularly and vigorously.
Follow my micronutrient rich dietary program and regain a normal weight.
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2. Sever PS, Gordon D, Peart WS, et al: Blood-pressure and its correlates in urban and tribal Africa. Lancet 1980;2:60-64.
3. American Heart Association: High Blood Pressure Statistics. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4621. Accessed June 2, 2011.
4. Nguyen QC, Tabor JW, Entzel PP, et al: Discordance in National Estimates of Hypertension Among Young Adults. Epidemiology 2011.
5. Neale T: 1 in 5 Young Adults May Have Hypertention. MedPage Today. http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/Hypertension/26700?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyHeadlines&utm_source=WC&userid=322421. Accessed June 2, 2011.
6. Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, et al: Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Lancet 2002;360:1903-1913.
7. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics: 2010 Update At-A-Glance. http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1265665152970DS-3241%20HeartStrokeUpdate_2010.pdf. Accessed January 11, 2011.
8. Sonnenberg A: Dietary salt and gastric ulcer. Gut 1986;27:1138-1142.
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10. Go O, Rosendorff C: Hypertension and atrial fibrillation. Curr Cardiol Rep 2009;11:430-435.
11. DellaCroce JT, Vitale AT: Hypertension and the eye. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2008;19:493-498.
12. Elliott P, Stamler J, Dyer AR, et al: Association between protein intake and blood pressure: the INTERMAP Study. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:79-87.
13. Wang YF, Yancy WS, Jr., Yu D, et al: The relationship between dietary protein intake and blood pressure: results from the PREMIER study. J Hum Hypertens 2008;22:745-754.
14. Alonso A, de la Fuente C, Martin-Arnau AM, et al: Fruit and vegetable consumption is inversely associated with blood pressure in a Mediterranean population with a high vegetable-fat intake: the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Study. Br J Nutr 2004;92:311-319.
15. Fu CH, Yang CC, Lin CL, et al: Effects of long-term vegetarian diets on cardiovascular autonomic functions in healthy postmenopausal women. Am J Cardiol 2006;97:380-383.
16. Utsugi MT, Ohkubo T, Kikuya M, et al: Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of hypertension determined by self measurement of blood pressure at home: the Ohasama study. Hypertens Res 2008;31:1435-1443.