Skip to content

From Science Daily:

High protein diets lead to lower blood pressure, study finds

Adults who consume a high-protein diet may be at a lower risk for developing high blood pressure, concludes a study that found participants consuming the highest amount of protein -- an average of 100 g protein/day -- had a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure compared to the lowest intake level.

One of three U.S. adults has hypertension and 78.6 million are clinically obese, a risk factor for the development of hypertension. Because of the strain that it puts on blood vessel walls, HBP is one of the most common risk factors of stroke and an accelerator of multiple forms of heart disease, especially when paired with excess body weight.

The researchers analyzed protein intakes of healthy participants from the Framingham Offspring Study and followed them for development of high blood pressure over an 11-year period. They found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from animal or plant sources, had statistically significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up. In general, these beneficial effects were evident for both overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) and normal weight (BMI <25 kg/m2) individuals. They also found that consuming more dietary protein also was associated with lower long-term risks for HBP. When the diet also was characterized by higher intakes of fiber, higher protein intakes led to 40-60 percent reductions in risk of HBP.

Two studies about blood pressure and how it can be easily changed without medications. From Science Daily:

Small weight gain can raise blood pressure in healthy adults

Gaining a few pounds can increase blood pressure in healthy adults, researchers report. Increased fat inside the abdomen led to even larger increases in blood pressure, their study results showed. Many people understand the health dangers of large amounts of extra body weight, but researchers in this study wanted to see the impact of a small weight gain of about five to 11 pounds.

At the beginning of the eight-week study, a 24-hour monitor tested the blood pressure of 16 normal weight people. Their results were compared to 10 normal weight, healthy people who maintained the same weight over the eight weeks. Researchers found: -Those who gained weight had a systolic blood pressure (top number) increase from an average 114 mm Hg to an average 118 mm Hg. -Those who gained more weight inside their abdomen had a greater blood pressure increase. -A five to 11 pound weight gain didn't change cholesterol, insulin or blood sugar levels. The study was conducted in healthy people ages 18-48. 

From Science Daily:

Restricting calories may improve sleep apnea, blood pressure in obese people

Restricting calories may improve sleep apnea and reduce blood pressure in obese adults. Those who restricted their calories had higher levels of oxygen in their blood and a greater reduction in body weight, a study has demonstrated.

 "Losing weight was most likely the key to all the benefits observed in the calorie-restricted group. A greater reduction in systolic blood pressure can be explained, at least partially, by the reduction in body weight that was associated with reduction in obstructive sleep apnea severity and sympathetic nervous system activity." Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading, which measures the force of the blood in the arteries when the heart is contracted.

The great effects (especially for hemorrhagic stroke) were found in people eating just 1 1/2 portions of fresh fruit daily. The amazing part is that 6.3% admitted to never consuming fruit. From Science Daily:

Fruit consumption cuts cardiovascular disease risk by up to 40 percent

Daily fruit consumption cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by up to 40 percent, according to research. The findings from the seven-year follow-up study of nearly a half million people in the China Kadoorie Biobank found that the more fruit people ate, the more their risk of CVD declined.

Dr Du said: "CVD, including ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Improving diet and lifestyle is critical for CVD risk reduction in the general population but the large majority of this evidence has come from western countries and hardly any from China."

The current study included 451 681 participants with no history of CVD and not on anti-hypertensive treatment at baseline from the China Kadoorie Biobank(1) conducted in 10 different areas of China, 5 rural and 5 urban. Habitual consumption of fruit was recorded at baseline according to five categories: never, monthly, 1-3 days per week, 4-6 days per week, daily.

Over the seven year follow up period there were 19 300 cases of IHD and 19 689 strokes (14 688 ischaemic and 3562 haemorrhagic). Some 18% of participants consumed fruit daily and 6.3% never consumed fruit. The average amount of fruit eaten by the daily consumers was 1.5 portions (~150g).

The researchers found that compared to people who never ate fruit, those who ate fruit daily cut their CVD risks by 25-40% (around 15% for IHD, around 25% for ischaemic stroke and 40% for haemorrhagic stroke). There was a dose response relationship between the frequency of fruit consumption and the risk of CVD.

Dr Du said: "Our data clearly shows that eating fresh fruit can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischaemic heart disease and stroke (particularly haemorrhagic stroke). And not only that, the more fruit you eat the more your CVD risk goes down. It does suggest that eating more fruit is beneficial compared to less or no fruit."

The researchers also found that people who consumed fruit more often had significantly lower blood pressure (BP). Eating fruit daily was associated with 3.4/4.1 mmHg lower systolic/diastolic BP compared to those who never ate fruit. 

In a separate analysis, the researchers examined the association of fruit consumption with total mortality and CV mortality in more than 61,000 patients from the China Kadoorie Biobank who had CVD or hypertension at baseline. They found that compared to those who never ate fruit, daily consumers of fruit cut their overall risk of death by 32%. They also reduced their risks of dying from IHD by 27% and from stroke by around 40%.

Even though it looks to be a modest effect, it is still good news. But they should have added kefir to the list of probiotic containing foods. From Science Daily:

Eating probiotics regularly may improve your blood pressure

Eating probiotics regularly may modestly improve your blood pressure, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal  Hypertension. Probiotics are live microorganisms (naturally occurring bacteria in the gut) thought to have beneficial effects; common sources are yogurt or dietary supplements.

"The small collection of studies we looked at suggest regular consumption of probiotics can be part of a healthy lifestyle to help reduce high blood pressure, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure levels," said Jing Sun, Ph.D., lead author and senior lecturer at the Griffith Health Institute and School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. "This includes probiotics in yogurt, fermented and sour milk and cheese, and probiotic supplements."

Analyzing results of nine high-quality studies examining blood pressure and probiotic consumption in 543 adults with normal and elevated blood pressure, researchers found:

  • Probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average 3.56 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) by an average 2.38 mm Hg, compared to adults who didn't consume probiotics.
  • The positive effects from probiotics on diastolic blood pressure were greatest in people whose blood pressure was equal to or greater than 130/85, which is considered elevated.
  • Probiotics with multiple bacteria lowered blood pressure more than those with a single bacteria.

We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance," Sun said.

Moderate levels of exercise seems to have tremendous benefits for everyone, but there are downsides to being an extreme exerciser.  From Science Daily:

Elderly men with high blood pressure lower death risk with moderate fitness

Elderly men with high blood pressure can lower their risk of death with even moderate levels of fitness. "This level of fitness is achievable by most elderly individuals engaging in a brisk walk of 20 to 40 minutes, most days of the week," said Charles Faselis, M.D., lead author of the study.

For the study, researchers assessed the fitness status of 2,153 men, aged 70 years and older with high blood pressure by a standard treadmill exercise test. Researchers applied the international units used to measure fitness, called metabolic equivalents (METs), to determine the men's peak fitness levels. After an average follow-up of nine years, researchers found that the risk of death was 11 percent lower for every one-MET increase in exercise capacity.

"For every 100 people who died in the least-fit category, 82 died in the low-fit, 64 in the moderate-fit and 52 in the high-fit categories," Kokkinos said. "The death rate is cut in half for those in the highest fitness category."

Too much exercise also has negatives for men. From Medical Xpress:

Too much prolonged high-intensity exercise risks heart health

Overdosing on high intensity exercise may actually increase the risk of death from a heart attack or stroke in those with existing heart disease, suggests German research published online in the journal Heart.

Similarly, a second Swedish study in the journal suggests that young men undertaking endurance exercise for more than five hours a week may increase their risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm in later life.

Both sets of findings indicate a J-shaped curve for the health benefits of exercise... And they describe "a similar U-shaped or reverse J-shaped pattern for the dose-response effect of exercise: maximum cardiovascular benefits are obtained if performed at moderate doses, while these benefits are lost with (very high) intensity and prolonged efforts."

A small study, but interesting to see if it holds up. Note that watermelon extract is not actual watermelon. From Science Daily:

Chowing down on watermelon could lower blood pressure, study suggests

A new study by Florida State University Associate Professor Arturo Figueroa, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, found that watermelon could significantly reduce blood pressure in overweight individuals both at rest and while under stress.

The study started with a simple concept. More people die of heart attacks in cold weather because the stress of the cold temperatures causes blood pressure to increase and the heart has to work harder to pump blood into the aorta. That often leads to less blood flow to the heart.

Thus, people with obesity and high blood pressure face a higher risk for stroke or heart attack when exposed to the cold either during the winter or in rooms with low temperatures.

So, what might help their hearts? It turned out that watermelon may be part of the answer.

Figueroa's 12-week study focused on 13 middle-aged, obese men and women who also suffered from high blood pressure. To simulate cold weather conditions, one hand of the subject was dipped into 39 degree water (or 4 degrees Celsius) while Figueroa's team took their blood pressure and other vital measurements.

Meanwhile, the group was divided into two. For the first six weeks, one group was given four grams of the amino acid L-citrulline and two grams of L-arginine per day, both from watermelon extract. The other group was given a placebo for 6 weeks. Then, they switched for the second six weeks. Participants also had to refrain from taking any medication for blood pressure or making any significant changes in their lifestyle, particularly related to diet and exercise, during the study.

The results showed that consuming watermelon had a positive impact on aortic blood pressure and other vascular parametersNotably, study participants showed improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress while both at rest and while they were exposed to the cold water.

Vegetarian diet lowers blood pressure without medications. From Medscape:

Vegetarian Diet Cuts Blood Pressure in Meta-Analysis

Eating a vegetarian diet is associated with reductions in blood pressure (BP) on par with adopting the DASH (low-sodium) diet, and roughly half that of starting pharmaceutical treatment, a new meta-analysis suggests .

"These findings establish the value of nonpharmacologic means for reducing BP," lead author on the study, Dr Yoko Yokoyama (National Cerebral and  Cardiovascular Center, Osaka, Japan). "Unlike drugs, there is no cost to a diet adjustment of this type, and all the 'side effects' of a plant-based diet are desirable: weight loss, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control, among others. I would encourage physicians to prescribe plant-based diets as a matter of routine and to rely on medications only when diet changes do not do the job."

Yokoyama et al's meta-analysis is published February 24, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study is the latest to examine the health impact of a vegetarian-style eating pattern on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

The authors reviewed over 250 studies addressing vegetarian diets, ultimately including seven clinical trials (six of which were randomized) and 32 observational studies that included blood-pressure findings. Diets ranged from vegan to lacto-ovo vegetarian, with one study including fish, but no meat).

The authors found that reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were significantly greater for the vegetarian diets than for the comparator (omnivorous) diets, both in the pooled clinical trials and in the pooled observational studies, although drops were greater in the observational studies.

"This issue was examined by nearly 40 independent studies, some of which had hundreds or even thousands of participants, and the findings are strikingly consistent," Yokoyama said. "A vegetarian diet is clearly associated with lower blood pressure. Or, put another way, a meat-based diet is associated with higher blood pressure."

As with the DASH diet, the effect of switching to a vegetarian diet appears to be fairly rapid, and that's likely the result of two factors.

From the Medical Daily:

High Blood Pressure In Teens, Young Adults A Sign Of Hardened Arteries Down The Road

Your blood pressure during your teens and early twenties, though often naturally low due to youth, may have something to do with your cardiovascular health in later years, according to new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In the new study, which was published in JAMA, researchers found that having higher blood pressure during your teens and twenties was actually linked to hardened arteries at age 40.

The study, led by epidemiologist Norrina Allen, points out the significance of maintaining cardiovascular health at a young age.

The study reviewed 4,600 men and women throughout several different states and followed them for 25 years. They found that 19 percent of them had blood pressure that was much higher than their peers, and that another 5 percent started with high blood pressure that gradually rose. Though these blood pressure readings fell within “normal” range for their age, it was higher than average and thus they were more likely to develop hypertension by age 40. Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure or arterial hypertension.

“While you wouldn’t prescribe medications for this group, you might have conversations with those individuals about ways they can improve their diet or increase physical activity,” Allen told NPR. She notes that “many of these cardiovascular risk factors are cumulative,” meaning they often occur over a long period of time and are a combination of things, from smoking to living a sedentary lifestyle.

Another inadvertent way to kill off good bacteria. From the January 27, 2014 Medical Daily:

Antiseptic Mouthwash Raises Heart Attack Risk, Blood Pressure: Chlorhexidine Kills Off 'Good' Bacteria That Helps Blood Vessels Relax

Antiseptic mouthwash is commonly used to quickly refresh and clean the mouth after brushing your teeth in the morning, after eating, and before going to bed. According to a recent study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, using a mouthwash twice daily — such as Corsodyl — may increase blood pressure up to 3.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), raising your heart attack risk.

Now a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London believe using antiseptic mouthwash daily could increase the odds of HBP (high blood pressure) due to a chemical that kills the “good” bacteria responsible for helping the blood vessels relax.

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, lead author of the study, and her team of researchers, observed the effects of a chlorhexidine-based antiseptic mouthwash — Corsodyl — by measuring the blood pressure of a small cohort of healthy participants during a two-week period. Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that treats gingivitis and others problems of the mouth and gums. A total of 19 participants were recruited for the study during an initial seven-day control period followed by a seven-day treatment period with the antiseptic mouthwash. 

The findings revealed Cordosyl use retracts the oral bacterial conversion from nitrate to nitrate which reduces the plasma nitrate levels that are associated with increases in blood pressure. The mouthwash led the participants’ blood pressure to rise between 2 to 3.5 mmHg, with a noticeable effect found within one day of using the mouthwash twice.

The study authors believe killing off “good” oral bacteria plays a vital role in determining the plasma nitrate levels, and the bodily control of blood pressure. “Killing off all these bugs each day is a disaster, when small rises in blood pressure have significant impact on morbidity and mortality from heart disease and stroke,” said Ahluwalia, the Daily Mail reported. However, she adds, “We are not telling people to stop using antiseptic mouthwashes if they have a gum or tooth infection — but we would ask why anyone else would want to.”

The findings of the study do not apply to all mouthwashes because not all mouthwashes contain the chemical chlorhexidine, such as the popular Listerine. The study authors caution other mouthwashes could still produce the same effects as Corsodyl by damaging the mouth’s healthy bacteria.

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and thus cut the risk of heart attack and stroke.From the January 17, 2014 Science Daily:

Here Comes the Sun to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and thus cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests.

Research carried out at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh shows that sunlight alters levels of the small messenger molecule, nitric oxide (NO) in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure... "NO along with its breakdown products, known to be abundant in skin, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of NO are transferred from the skin to the circulation, lowering blood vessel tone; as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke."

While limiting sunlight exposure is important to prevent skin cancer, the authors of the study, including Dr Richard Weller of the University of Edinburgh, suggest that minimising exposure may be disadvantageous by increasing the risk of prevalent conditions related to cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease, often associated with high blood pressure, accounts for 30 per cent of deaths globally each year. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are known to vary according to season and latitude, with higher levels observed in winter and in countries further from the equator, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun is lower.