One in 3 adults in the U.S. has hypertension. In those over the age of 55, more than 50% have hypertension, which is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Sixty-nine percent heart attack sufferers and 77% of stroke sufferers have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg.1 Many organizations recommend that blood pressure be kept below 130/80 in order to prevent heart attack and stroke. However, a meta-analysis of 61 studies has concluded that risk for heart attack and stroke begins to increase when blood pressure is elevated above 115/75.2
The INVEST study involved 22,576 hypertensive participants aged 50 years or older. This particular portion of the study focused on participants that had both diabetes and coronary artery disease, in addition to hypertension . Subjects were given anti-hypertensive drugs (either a calcium channel blocker or a beta-blocker), and were placed in one of three groups according to their level of blood pressure control: tight control (<130), usual control (130-139), or uncontrolled (>139). Incidences of heart attack, stroke, and death were recorded over an 8-year period. Scientists found no differences in any of these outcomes between tight and usual control groups.3,4
This is a classic example of treating the symptom rather than the cause. Of course heart attacks and strokes were not prevented – one specific symptom, blood pressure, was addressed with medication, but the patients already had heart disease and diabetes, and they did not eliminate the toxic diet style that was the initial cause of these conditions. Therefore, their heart disease continued to progress.
Blood pressure can be kept under control naturally. High blood pressure is almost non-existent in non-Westernized populations.5-7Salt and added sugars are significant contributors to elevated blood pressure, and these must be minimized. Reducing salt consumption alone has the potential to save millions of lives.8 A diet of whole plant foods also provides a favorable ratio of potassium to sodium. another important factor in blood pressure regulation.9
Most importantly, a diet based on natural plant foods does not merely address the problem with blood pressure; by maximizing protective nutrients, it reduces every risk factor for heart disease – LDL cholesterol, inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, etc. – a high nutrient diet is the most comprehensive preventive measure.
Also remember that anti-hypertension medications have plenty of side effects, including fatigue, headaches, and lightheadedness, plus increased risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias and diabetes. 10-12 In fact, excessive blood pressure lowering with medication can be dangerous, especially for the elderly, because it can prevent adequate blood flow to the heart leading to cardiac arrthymias and sudden cardiac death.13 Dietary modifications and exercise can radically prolong your life, not only are they much safer than drugs, but they also prevent dementia, cancer and other diseases simultaneously. If you have not read it already, please read my book Eat For Health , so you can more fully understand some of these basic concepts to take back control of your health destiny. Drugs don’t do it.
1. American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure - Statistics. Statistical Fact Sheets - Disease/Risk Factors 2010 August 26, 2010]; Available from: http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1261003279882FS14HBP10.pdf.
2. Lewington, S., 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(9349): p. 1903-13.
3. Cooper-DeHoff, R.M., et al., Tight blood pressure control and cardiovascular outcomes among hypertensive patients with diabetes and coronary artery disease. JAMA, 2010. 304(1): p. 61-8.
4. Schwenk, T., Blood Pressure Control in Patients with Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease: No benefit for lowering BP to <130/80 mm Hg, in Journal Watch General Medicine. 2010.
5. Murphy, H.B., Blood pressure and culture. The contribution of cross-cultural comparisons to psychosomatics. Psychother Psychosom, 1982. 38(1): p. 244-55.
6. Cooper, R., et al., The prevalence of hypertension in seven populations of west African origin. Am J Public Health, 1997. 87(2): p. 160-8.
7. He, J., et al., Body mass and blood pressure in a lean population in southwestern China. Am J Epidemiol, 1994. 139(4): p. 380-9.
8. He, F.J. and G.A. MacGregor, Reducing population salt intake worldwide: from evidence to implementation. Prog Cardiovasc Dis, 2010. 52(5): p. 363-82.
9. Cook, N.R., et al., Joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on subsequent cardiovascular disease: the Trials of Hypertension Prevention follow-up study. Arch Intern Med, 2009. 169(1): p. 32-40.
10. Swaminathan, R.V. and K.P. Alexander, Pulse pressure and vascular risk in the elderly: associations and clinical implications. Am J Geriatr Cardiol, 2006. 15(4): p. 226-32; quiz 133-4.
11. Mitchell, G.F., et al., Pulse pressure and risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation. JAMA, 2007. 297(7): p. 709-15.
12. Elliott, W.J. and P.M. Meyer, Incident diabetes in clinical trials of antihypertensive drugs: a network meta-analysis. Lancet, 2007. 369(9557): p. 201-7.
13. Messerli, F.H., et al., Dogma disputed: can aggressively lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease be dangerous? Ann Intern Med, 2006. 144(12): p. 884-93.