Lower Blood Pressure with Exercise and Diet

Blood pressure has two components: the higher systolic when your heart contracts, and the lower diastolic when your heart relaxes. You have high blood pressure when your systolic is above 120 or your diastolic is above 80. Ninety-one percent of Americans will eventually develop high blood pressure, which increases their risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, kidney damage and other blood vessel disease. Doctors do not diagnose high blood pressure with a single reading because some people have reactive hypertension that is not as dangerous as persistent hypertension. If you get one high reading in your doctor’s office, check your own blood pressure daily and chart the results. You can use the self-test stations that are available in many pharmacies, or buy your own blood pressure cuff for about fifty dollars. Healthy people have their blood pressures drop in the evening. The person at highest risk for heart attacks and strokes is the one whose high blood pressure does not drop in the evening. If your blood pressure is above 120/80 consistently, particularly in the evening, you have high blood pressure and are at significant risk for serious disease. Check back with your doctor who will usually evaluate you for other risk factors for a heart attack and may prescribe drugs. Whether or not you take medication, you can improve blood pressure with lifestyle changes: diet and exercise. More than 80 percent of hypertensive Americans can bring their blood pressures to normal within a few weeks just by following a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds (the DASH diet, NIH Publication No. 03-4082.) A...

Resolve to Get in Shape and Prolong Your Life

Being out-of-shape is almost as strong a risk factor for a heart attack as smoking. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (December 21, 2005) shows that being out-of-shape markedly increases your risk for being fat, storing most of your fat in your belly, having a high bad LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure, and having low levels of the good HDL cholesterol. We live in a society in which 91 percent of the population develops high blood pressure, 78 percent have high cholesterol, and 35 percent are diabetic. More than 50 percent of us die of heart attacks and strokes from these risk factors. Doctors no longer think of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes as just being due to our genes. We now consider these diseases to be caused by our behavior. You prevent heart attacks, strokes and diabetes by 1) exercising; 2) reducing your exposure to saturated fats (meat and chicken), partially hydrogenated fats (most prepared foods), and refined carbohydrates (flour and sugar); 3) eating larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts; 4) avoiding overweight; and 5) avoiding smoking. We have known for many years that any kind of exercise or activity helps prevent heart attacks, but more recent data show that the more vigorous the exercise, the better the protection. First check with your doctor to see if you have a medical condition that could be aggravated by exercising. People who are out-of-shape are the ones most likely to suffer heart attacks when they start an exercise program. With your doctors permission, you are ready to start a training...