With the cost of prescription medicines on the rise – and more people losing their health insurance – comes the good news that inexpensive natural treatments may help lower blood pressure and reduce the inflammation linked to heart disease. Here are the latest findings. --By Colette Bouchez--
If you’re one of millions of Americans fighting high blood pressure and trying to stave off the threat of heart disease, the news this week is very encouraging.
According to two separate studies published this week, both green tea and grapes may offer significant help in reducing not only blood pressure but also cholesterol - as well as controlling some of the inflammation linked to heart attack and even Alzheimer's disease.
In the case of green tea the “medical magic” is being attributed to polyphenols – natural compounds that appear to reduce inflammation in blood vessels which, if left unchecked, can not only raise blood pressure but also cause cholesterol to rise.
While green tea can contain up to 40% polyphenols, black tea usually contains between 3 and 10 percent.
The key compound in the grapes, say researchers, are flavonoids a type of antioxidant that also helps reduce inflammation.
“The things that we think are having an effect against the hypertension may be the flavonoids – either by direct antioxidant effects, by indirect effects on cell function, or both, “said researcher Steven Bolling from the University of Michigan where the grape research was conducted.
Although the study used concentrated grape powder, Bolling says the protective flavonoids can found in the fresh fruit as well, adding it is “ rich in all parts of the grape - skin, flesh and seed.”
Perhaps most interesting was that the grape compounds appeared to be most effective against high blood pressure in those who are salt sensitive.
Although this particular research was conducted on rodents, the researchers say there was clear evidence that a diet rich in the natural compounds found in grapes can reduce blood pressure associated with a high salt intake, helping to not only lower blood pressure, but improve heart health, reduce heart muscle damage and reduce inflammation that leads to hear disease. The research was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.
Green Tea and Your Health
Similar to the Michigan study, the green tea study- just published in the journal Nutrition, also used a powdered supplement - this one made from natural extracts of green tea (Camellia sinensis). Here, a total of 125 men and women were randomly assigned to take a combination of two green tea supplements, or a placebo, once daily for 3 weeks.
At the end of the study, both total and LDL cholesterol decreased in all subjects by up to 10mg/dL, while blood pressure dropped on average of 5 points – all in just a matter of a few weeks.
Perhaps even more important, researchers documented a reduction in markers for oxidative stress - which some believe may be the early stages of heart disease - as well as a reduction of up to 42% of amyloid-alpha, another marker of chronic inflammation which may not only play a role in high blood pressure, but also brain degeneration including Alzheimer’s disease.
“Camellia sinensis compounds may be an option for people who have mild to moderate high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, elevated markers of inflammation, or a combination of these three CVD risk factors,” say the researchers who hailed from the University of Florida, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and the Nutritional Science Research Institute in Boston.
As such, they also suggest that before turning to prescription drugs, a trial of diet and exercise, including drinking green tea or using green tea supplements, may be enough to keep blood pressure and resulting inflammation under control.
What This Means To You: While drinking green tea or adding grapes to your diet may not be all the help you need in reducing your high blood pressure and protecting your heart, adding them to your daily diet may help give your medication a boost – and help you build an arsenal of protection against the ravages of inflammation that can increase the risk of many diseases associated with advancing age.
If you have just begun to see to first stirrings of high blood pressure or high cholesterol – for example a pressure reading of between 120 and 135 or a slight rise in cholesterol , then don’t fool yourself into believing they won’t get any worse. They can and they probably will – unless you take some kind intervention to halt the process.
In that case, these two small dietary changes might be just what the doctor ordered!