High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a long term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is continuously elevated. Long-term high blood pressure is a major factor for stroke, heart failure, vision loss, dementia, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, atrial fibrillation, and chronic kidney disease. It is classified as primary high blood pressure or secondary high blood pressure, most are primary defined due to genetic factors and nonspecific lifestyle. Secondary has lower percentage with identifiable cause, such as endocrine disorder, chronic kidney disease, use of birth control pills or narrowing of the kidney arteries. Dr. Michael Greger, Care2.com, reflects on How Not To Die From High Blood Pressure:
“High blood pressure is the number-one risk factor for death in the world. In the United States, it affects nearly 78 million people, one in three adults. As we age, our blood pressures get higher and higher, such that by age 60, high blood pressure strikes more than half of us.
Given that it affects most of us when we get older, could high blood pressure be less a disease and more just an inevitable consequence of aging? No. We’ve known since the 1920s that high blood pressure need not occur, which I discuss in my video How Not to Die from High Blood Pressure.
Researchers measured the blood pressures of a thousand people in rural Kenya, where their traditional diet included more whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and dark leafy greens. Though our pressures go up as we age, their pressures actually go down.
With blood pressure, the lower, the better. The 140/90 cut-off you may have heard here or there is arbitrary. Even people who start out with blood pressures under 120/80 appear to benefit from blood pressure reduction. Your doctor would likely give you a gold star if you had a blood pressure of 120/80, but research indicates the ideal blood pressure—blood pressure that wouldn’t get benefit from being any lower—may actually be 110/70.
Image courtesy of: Leo Reynolds
Is it even possible to get blood pressures as low as 110/70? It’s not just possible—it’s normal for those living healthy enough lives.
Over two years, 1,800 patients were admitted to a rural Kenyan hospital. How many cases of high blood pressure were found? Zero. Wow, they must have had low rates of heart disease. No, in fact, they had no rates of heart disease. Not a single case of our number-one killer, arteriosclerosis, was found. Rural China, too. There, people are about 110/70 their entire lives—70-year-olds with the same average blood pressure as 16-year-olds.
Those in Asia and Africa traditionally eat vastly different diets, but they do share a commonality: Both were plant-based day-to-day, with meat eaten only on special occasions. Why do we think it’s the plant-based nature of their diets that was so protective? In the Western world, as the American Heart Association has pointed out, the only people getting their blood pressures down that low were those eating strictly plant-based diets, coming in around 110/65.”
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