REGULAR EXERCISES… A new study suggests that exercise can be just as effective as drugs when it comes to keeping blood pressure under control.<br />
High blood pressure or rather hypertension is associated with stroke, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, kidney failure and sudden death. It is estimated that about 33 per cent of adult Nigerians are hypertensive.
Several conventional medicines have shown promise in lowering and regulating blood pressure but they come at a huge cost.
The patient may have to continue taking the drug for life and is some cases the medicines could be contaminated with cancer-causing substance like Valsartan.
However, researches have validated more natural ways to lower blood pressure without any side and adverse effects.
It is also believed that finding a cost-effective, safe, natural compound that helps reduce blood pressure could save money and, more importantly, improves and extends lives.
Can exercise lower blood pressure as effectively as drugs?
Millions of people live with high blood pressure, which can place them at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. For this condition, doctors typically prescribe blood-lowering drugs, but could exercise help just as well?
A new study suggests that exercise can be just as effective as drugs when it comes to keeping blood pressure under control.
People with high blood pressure typically follow an antihypertensive or blood pressure-lowering treatment, which includes special medication. At the same time, specialists sometimes advise that people make lifestyle changes to help them manage their blood pressure.
According to Medical News Today, one such change is to take regular, structured exercise that can be of several types:
*Endurance exercises, such as walking, jogging, or swimming
*High-intensity interval training, involving short bursts of intensive exercise
*Dynamic resistance, including strength training
*Isometric resistance, such as the plank exercise
*A combination of endurance and resistance exercises
However, no studies have yet compared the effectiveness of physical activity in lowering blood pressure with that of antihypertensive medication.
A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine — a BMJ publication — aims to address this gap in the literature.
Since there are no studies that directly compare the effects of blood pressure medication with those of structured exercise, the study analyzed the data of various research projects that focused on one or other of these approaches.
The researchers — from institutions across Europe and the United States (U.S.), including the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, and the Stanford University School of Medicine in California — explain that structured exercise helps lower systolic blood pressure, which measures the blood pressure in the blood vessels as the heart beats.
In the current study, they looked at the data from 194 clinical trials that focused on antihypertensive drugs and their impact on systolic blood pressure, and another 197 clinical trials, looking at the effect of structured exercise on blood pressure measurements. In total, these trials collected information from 39,742 participants.
Dr. Huseyin Naci — from the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science — and colleagues conducted several sets of analyses on the data from the trials.
First, they compared the effects of all types of antihypertensive drugs with those of all kinds of exercise.
Then, they looked at specific drug types versus specific types of exercise. Finally, they compared the impact of different exercise intensities with those of different drug dosages.
In the first instance, the investigators conducted these analyses by using data from healthy participants with normal blood pressure. Then, they repeated them with data from individuals with high blood pressure only.
They found that antihypertensive drugs were more effective in lowering blood pressure than structured exercise in the case of the general population.
However, when they looked specifically at people with high blood pressure, they saw that exercise was as effective as most blood-lowering medication.
Moreover, the study authors concluded that there is “compelling evidence that combining endurance and dynamic resistance training was effective in reducing [systolic blood pressure].”
Still, the research team cautions that they based their analyses on many small-scale trials, and others should replicate their results with more extensive studies.
Naci and colleagues also strongly advise against giving up on antihypertensive medication and replacing it with exercise.
“We don’t think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications,” the researcher says in a podcast in which he speaks about the current research.
The lead researcher notes that many people in the U.S. and throughout Europe lead sedentary lives and that they would benefit from taking more exercise.
At the same time, however, he emphasizes that doctors should make sure their patients could adhere to prescribed exercise regimens.
“It’s one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to be cognizant of the resource implications and ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit.”
Spirulina: Could eating these bacteria reduce blood pressure?
According to a recent study, spirulina may help to reduce blood pressure. The researchers also identify the active compound that produces this benefit.
As the supplement movement shifts into top gear, researchers are examining a range of nutritional ingredients for their potential health benefits.
Among this ever-growing clan of so-called superfoods is spirulina.
Spirulina is the dried biomass of Spirulina platensis, a species of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, as they are more commonly known.
Today, this ingredient is widely used as a supplement and added to certain foods, but it has a long history that stretches back to the Aztecs and ancient Africa. Historically, people harvested the bacteria from ponds and lakes and turned them into “cakes.”
Because spirulina contains high levels of protein, iron, and other nutrients, it is of interest to researchers investigating food security, malnutrition, and even long-distance space travel.
This nutrient-dense product has links with a range of health benefits.
For instance, some research has shown it to have anti-inflammatory properties, help control levels of glucose and lipids in the blood, reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and even protect against some types of cancer.
Although many of these claims lack adequate evidence, research into spirulina’s potential health benefits is ongoing. The most recent investigation is available in the journal Hypertension.
The authors, from a number of institutions across Italy, including the Vascular Physiopathology Laboratory of the I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, investigated its potential to counteract arterial hypertension.
Scientists have previously noted spirulina’s positive influence over blood pressure. In the current study, the scientists wanted to drill down into the details and understand exactly how it interacts with blood vessels to produce this benefit.
First, they simulated the effects of digestion on spirulina, as first author Albino Carrizzo explains: “We reproduced what happens in the human gut after ingesting the substance. This way we have been able to isolate the peptides that would be absorbed by our body.”
Then, the researchers tested the “digested” spirulina on arteries extracted from mice. As they expected, spirulina caused relaxation of the arteries; an effect mediated by nitric oxide (NO).
NO is known to play a vital role in maintaining healthy blood pressure, and for many individuals with hypertension, it is the NO mechanism that is at fault.
Next, the team wanted to determine the active molecule in the digested spirulina that was responsible for this activity.
After using what the researchers refer to as a “complex multistep peptidomic approach,” they identified one particular peptide that appeared to impart spirulina’s antihypertensive prowess — SP6.
SP6 interacts with an important signaling pathway known as PI3K/AKT. This interaction leads to the release of NO and, consequently, a drop in blood pressure.
“We know that hypertensive patients often have a defect in the natural processes that, by the action of nitric oxide, regulate endothelium (the inner wall of blood vessels). The peptide we isolated in spirulina extract acts positively on this mechanism.”
To further test SP6’s antihypertensive powers, they administered it to mice. As theorized, they measured a drop in blood pressure.
Lastly, they investigated SP6 in an animal model of hypertension; once again, they found that it reduced hypertension significantly.
Because this is the first study to identify SP6 as a potential antihypertensive, much more research will be needed. However, the authors are excited by the prospects.
Medical News Today recommends 14 other natural ways to lower blood pressure.
Reduce your sodium intake
Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods.
For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry. In many studies, salt has been linked to high blood pressure and heart events, like stroke.
However, more recent research indicates that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear.
One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a sensitivity to salt.
If you already have high blood pressure, it is worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
Most guidelines for lowering blood pressure recommend lowering sodium intake. However, that recommendation might make the most sense for people who are salt-sensitive.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. In fact, alcohol is linked to 16 per cent of high blood pressure cases around the world.
While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, negative effects may offset those benefits.
In the US, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.
Drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. Limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day for women, two for men.
Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium is an important mineral. It helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels. Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake while decreasing potassium intake.
To get a better balance of potassium to sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and fresher, whole foods.
Foods that are particularly high in potassium include: Vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes; Fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges and apricots; Dairy, such as milk and yoghurt; Tuna and salmon; Nuts and seeds; and Beans.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure.
Cut back on caffeine
If you have ever downed a cup of coffee before you have had your blood pressure taken, you will know that caffeine causes an instant boost.
However, there is not a lot of evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase. In fact, people who drink caffeinated coffee and tea tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who do not.
Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who do not consume it regularly. If you suspect you are caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.
Caffeine can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, although for many people it does not cause a lasting increase.
Learn to manage stress
Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure. When you are chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.
When you experience stress, you might also be more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy food that can negatively affect blood pressure.
Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:
Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
Work less: Working a lot, and stressful work situations in general, are linked to high blood pressure.
Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress can help.
Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
Here is a piece of advice you can really get behind. While eating massive amounts of chocolate probably won’t help your heart, small amounts may. That is because dark chocolate and cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate.
A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure. For the strongest effects, use non-alkalized cocoa powder, which is especially high in flavonoids and has no added sugars.
Dark chocolate and cocoa powders contain plant compounds that help relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
If you are overweight, losing weight can make a big difference for your heart health.
According to a 2016 study, losing five per cent of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure. In previous studies, losing 17 pounds (7.7 kg) was linked to lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.
To put that in perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.
Losing weight can help your blood vessels do a better job of expanding and contracting, making it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood.
Losing weight can significantly lower high blood pressure. This effect is even greater when you exercise.
Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease.
Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.
Surprisingly, studies have not found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.
Still, since both smoking and high blood pressure raise the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help reverse that risk.
There is conflicting research about smoking and high blood pressure, but what is clear is that both increase the risk of heart disease.
Cut added sugar and refined carbohydrates
There is a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure. In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day.
Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was linked to lower blood pressure. And it is not just sugar – all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems.
Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.
One study on people undergoing statin therapy found that those who went on a six-week, carb-restricted diet saw a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people not on a diet.
Refined carbs, especially sugar, may raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may help reduce your levels.
Berries are full of more than just juicy flavour. They are also packed with polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart. One small study had middle-aged people eat berries for eight weeks. Participants experienced improvements in different markers of heart health, including blood pressure.
Another study assigned people with high blood pressure to a low-polyphenol diet or a high-polyphenol diet containing berries, chocolate, fruits and vegetables.
Those consuming berries and polyphenol-rich foods experienced improved markers of heart disease risk.
Berries are rich in polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.
Try meditation or deep breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.
Both meditation and deep breathing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
There is quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure.
Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.
In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or to simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat.
Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Eat calcium-rich foods
People with low calcium intake often have high blood pressure. While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets do seem linked to healthy levels.
For most adults, the calcium recommendation is 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day. In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines and tofu.
Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. Get calcium through dark leafy greens and tofu, as well as dairy.
Take natural supplements
Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some of the main supplements that have evidence behind them:
Aged garlic extract: Aged garlic extract has been used successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure.
Berberine: Traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine may increase nitric oxide production, which helps decrease blood pressure.
Whey protein: A 2016 study found that whey protein improved blood pressure and blood vessel function in 38 participants.
Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most.
Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They are rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure.
Several natural supplements have been investigated for their ability to lower blood pressure.
Eat foods rich in magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax. While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people don’t get enough.
Some studies have suggested that getting too little magnesium is linked with high blood pressure, but evidence from clinical studies has been less clear.
Still, eating a magnesium-rich diet is a recommended way to ward off high blood pressure.
You can incorporate magnesium into your diet with vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat and whole grains.
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Find it in whole foods, such as legumes and whole grains.
REGULAR EXERCISES… A new study suggests that exercise can be just as effective as drugs when it comes to keeping blood pressure under control.<br />