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Issue 196: Oh, the Pressure!

Oh, the Pressure!

It’s called the “silent killer” and it has infiltrated our country. It’s high blood pressure, or hypertension, and over 76 million Americans over the age of 20 have it, while another nearly 77 million others are pre-hypertensive. About 80 percent of the people who have high blood pressure don’t even realize they have it, and there are no outward signs, making it even more menacing. Of those who know they have it and have sought treatment, the costs top $73 million, but not even half of those with high blood pressure—about 48 percent—have it under control.

In short, high blood pressure can break your health as well as the bank. It is so widespread that Peter Ziemkowski, M.D., while speaking to attendees at the American Academy of Family Physicians, says, “Hypertension is a disease that knows no boundaries. That’s 52 percent of patients with uncontrolled blood pressure, which represents our missed opportunity. ”

Ziemkowski, a family physician affiliated with Western Michigan University School of Medicine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is right, unfortunately. The truth is that unhealthy blood pressure levels are on the increase, while deaths from unhealthy blood pressure are on the rise, too. From 1996 to 2006 alone, the death rate from high blood pressure increased nearly 20 percent, with the actual number of deaths increasing over 48 percent, according to the American Heart Association. Unhealthy blood pressure levels can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are the first and third most common causes of death in the United States. Hypertension can also damage blood vessels and kidneys, while increasing a person’s risk of dementia and blindness.

Adults aren’t the only ones who are faced with this silent killer, though. Kids and teens now have serious health problems as well, including blood pressure unhealth, due to their diet and lifestyle. For example, high blood pressure in children has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and one in eight kids has two or more heart disease risk factors, while more than one-third of kids and teens is overweight or obese. Shockingly, The American Academy of Pediatrics now requires pediatricians to monitor blood pressure at age two and complete a lipid profile between the ages of two and eight.

If you want to keep your blood pressure levels in check, then exercise regularly, stay at a healthy weight and manage your diet. You can start by adding these foods to help support healthy blood pressure levels: spinach and other green, leafy veggies; avocados, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, celery, tomatoes; wild salmon and other fatty fish; beans and other legumes; bananas and other potassium-rich foods; unsalted sunflower seeds and other seeds; oats; organic, grassfed raw dairy products and other foods rich in vitamin D and calcium; and dark, organic chocolate—but not too much.

Spinach, for example, is low in calories, high in fiber and filled with potassium, folate and magnesium. Sunflower seeds are packed with magnesium, while beans and other legumes contain magnesium, potassium and fiber. The vitamin D and calcium found in dairy products and other foods team up to support healthy blood pressure. Likewise, dark chocolate—organic and at least 70 percent cocoa—was shown to lower blood pressure after 18 weeks, without weight gain or other adverse effects, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). One square a day is all it takes.

As for avocados, their oleic acid content helps keep blood pressure levels healthy. Broccoli contains Sulforaaphane Glucosinolate (SGS), a naturally occurring compound that helps support blood pressure health. Cabbage boasts a blood pressure-friendly chemical compound called glutamic acid, while oats and oat bran contain a fiber known as beta glucans, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

So, keep tabs on your blood pressure. Don’t let this silent killer on the loose get to you.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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