Tag Archives: blood pressure

Supportive Supplements for High Blood Pressure

In England, 32 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women have high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many people simply do not know their blood pressure level, despite the fact that measuring blood pressure is quick, easy, cheap and painless.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force that blood puts on the walls of your arteries when it is pumped around your body by your heart. It is measured with two readings – when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when it relaxes (diastolic pressure). Essentially, your blood pressure provides an indication of your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. It is not something to be ignored. Over time, high blood pressure can not only lead to a heart attack or stroke, but it can also damage the kidneys and even cause blindness.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood becomes too ‘thick’ or when arteries become blocked or inflexible. Hypertension can also be caused by changes during pregnancy or by another underlying condition. For the majority however, hypertension is a ‘lifestyle disease’, caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices that take their toll over time.

Diet and Lifestyle

The first line of treatment in hypertension is often dietary and lifestyle changes. Being overweight, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol and smoking are often the first issues to address. Simple changes include reducing alcohol consumption to 7 units or fewer each week for women or fewer than 14 units for men. Maintaining a healthy weight and following the DASH diet, which emphasises wholegrains alongside 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, is also recommended.

The importance of sleep is often overlooked in addressing hypertension, yet it is an important consideration. Lack of sleep activates the central nervous system, raising blood pressure. As a result, those of us who are sleep deprived tend to have higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure than those who make sure to get the recommended 8 hours (1).

Stress management is another essential element in guarding against high blood pressure. Unmanaged stress raises levels of corticosteroids which increase blood pressure. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce hypertension when practiced consistently (2).

Supportive Supplements

Most of us are aware of the link between salt intake and high blood pressure. This is because excess sodium can increase the constriction of the muscles surrounding the arteries. Magnesium, on the other hand, works to relax these muscles. Magnesium intake is therefore an important factor in managing blood pressure. There is a strong link between magnesium deficiency and heart disease. In fact magnesium supplementation has been found to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (3). Many of us fail to achieve the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. Cutting down on tea, coffee, sugar and alcohol can help your body to retain magnesium, while increasing magnesium-rich foods such as wholegrains, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses is recommended.

Increasing intake of omega-3, either by eating more oily fish or by taking an omega-3 supplement, is also a sensible measure. Omega-3 helps to reduce the viscosity of blood and also lowers levels of inflammation, potentially helping to protect arterial walls and prevent blood clots.

Finally, a small but promising trial published just last month found that a daily glass of beetroot juice lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (4). Beetroot juice provides a helpful dose of nitrate which appears to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Those who don’t like beetroot should try to include other nitrate-rich vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and broccoli.

Nutritional strategies are especially helpful in the early stages of high blood pressure, and can enable those affected to make positive changes to restore optimal health. Keeping an eye on blood pressure levels with regular checks is therefore a worthwhile task for all of us.

References.

1. Knutson et al (2009). Association Between Sleep and Blood Pressure in Midlife: The CARDIA Sleep Study. Archives of Internal Medicine 169 (11): 1055.

2. Schneider et al (1995) A Randomized Controlled Trial of Stress Reduction for Hypertension in Older African Americans. Hypertension. 26: 820-827.

3. Sun Ha Gee et al (2002) The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Am J Hypertension 15 (8): 691-696.

4. Ghosh SM, Kapil V, Fuentes-Calvo I, et al. Enhanced Vasodilator Activity of Nitrite in Hypertension – Critical Role for Erythrocytic Xanthine Oxidoreductase and Translational Potential. Hypertension. Published online April 15 2013.

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Beetroot Juice Found to Lower Blood Pressure

A new study published just last month in the journal Hypertension suggests that drinking just one glass of beetroot a day can reduce blood pressure.

The study was conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. It involved eight women and seven men who had high blood pressure and who were not taking blood pressure medication.

Blood pressure is normally given as two numbers, which represent ‘systolic’ and ‘diastolic’ pressure levels. The first number, the systolic level, is a measure of the pressure created in the arteries when the heart beats. Normal systolic blood pressure is 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or below. The second number, the diastolic level, represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. Normal diastolic blood pressure is 80 mm Hg or below.

The study participants all had raised systolic blood pressure of between 140 and 159 mm Hg.

The beetroot juice in the study provided about 0.2g of dietary nitrate, levels that might be provided by two beetroots. Nitrate reduces blood pressure by widening the passageways for blood. The body converts dietary nitrate into a chemical called nitrite and then to nitric oxide in the blood. Nitric oxide is a gas that widens blood vessels and aids blood flow.

The study involved eight women and seven men who had a systolic blood pressure between 140 to 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), did not have other medical complications and were not taking blood pressure medication. The study participants drank 250 mL of beetroot juice or water containing a low amount of nitrate, and had their blood pressure monitored over the next 24 hours.

Compared with the placebo group, participants drinking beetroot juice had reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The reduction was highest three to six hours after drinking the juice. Interestingly, blood pressure was still reduced 24 hours later, even after levels of nitrate circulating in the blood had returned to normal.

Study leader Amrita Ahluwalia, Ph.D., professor of vascular pharmacology at The Barts and The London Medical School, was surprised by how little nitrate was needed to produce these results. “This study shows that compared to individuals with healthy blood pressure much less nitrate is needed to produce the kinds of decreases in blood pressure that might provide clinical benefits in people who need to lower their blood pressure.”

High Nitrate lettuce is a good source of nitrate
High Nitrate lettuce is a good source of nitrate

Those drinking beetroot juice should be aware that this juice can cause a temporary pink colouration of urine and stools, which can be a little alarming but is completely harmless. Of course beetroot is not the only nitrate-rich vegetable. For those who don’t enjoy the taste, try nitrate-rich lettuce, rocket, spinach, celery, cabbage or fennel.

Increasing dietary intakes of nitrates is simple. Try adding beetroot juice to a smoothie, or lunch on beetroot soup. Use spinach and lettuce as salad bases, or snack on celery with hummus or peanut butter during the daytime. At dinner, include nitrate-rich vegetables such as bok choy, cabbage, leeks and broccoli.

“Our hope is that increasing one’s intake of vegetables with a high dietary nitrate content, such as green leafy vegetables or beetroot, might be a lifestyle approach that one could easily employ to improve cardiovascular health,” said Amrita Ahluwalia. She nevertheless advises caution in interpreting the results of this small study, as “we are still uncertain as to whether this effect is maintained in the long term.” It is hoped these preliminary findings might pave the way for more larger-scale studies in this area.

References

1. American Heart Association (2013, April 15). Drinking cup of beetroot juice daily may help lower blood pressure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved 28/04/13

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Fish oil counters the effects of air pollution

A new trial has found evidence that omega-3 supplementation can reduce the harmful effects of air pollution (1).
The randomised, controlled trial, soon to be published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that fish oil supplements can counter the effects of air pollution, helping to protect city dwellers from heart disease.

It is widely accepted that the air pollution of city living increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, city centre residents are almost twice as likely to develop the first signs of heart disease than people who lived in less polluted urban and rural areas, according to recent research (2).

Air pollution is a complex mixture of noxious gases, liquids and other particles that raise blood pressure, increase coagulation (blood clots), raise levels of inflammation and promote build up of deposits in the arteries.

While air pollution is a concern all year round, the summer months can be particularly troublesome. Air becomes stagnant owing to the longer days, and the increased amount of sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. The sunlight helps to form new, harmful compounds are formed that weren’t there before.

To reflect these city pollutants, the researchers used an ‘air pollution chamber’ filled with ambient fine and ultrafine particles, as well as another ‘clean’ chamber filled with filtered air.

Fish Oil Supplement
Fish Oil Supplements can help counter the effects of Air Pollution.

Twenty-nine healthy, middle-aged participants were given 3g daily of either fish oil or olive oil for four weeks before they entered the chamber. Each participant then spent two hours in the ‘clean’ chamber and the ‘polluted’ chamber. The researchers measured cardiac response before, immediately after and 20 hours after exposure to the pollution. They also measured blood lipids of the participants.

In those who took the placebo olive oil capsules, levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides rose immediately after the exposure to pollution. Levels of LDL and triglycerides are linked with heart disease risk. There was no such response in the fish oil group.

Heart rate variability (HRV) was also measured in each group. HRV simply means the way that heart beat varies. A lower heart rate variability is linked to poorer heart health, whereas the beat of a healthy heart is constantly changing as the body finds the most efficient way to operate. Those in the placebo group showed reduced HRV after pollution exposure, reflecting the harmful effects of their exposure to the pollution chamber. Those in the fish oil group showed no reduction in HRV.

The findings of the study suggest that fish oil supplements may help protect against both the cardiac and lipid effects of air pollution. Although a small study, it does appear to add to the vast weight of evidence for the benefits of omega-3 supplementation. Those of us who live in town and cities might do well to take a regular fish oil supplement for daily protection.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. J. Lambrechtsen, O. Gerke, K. Egstrup, N. P. Sand, B. L. Nørgaard, H. Petersen, H. Mickley, A. C. P. Diederichsen.The relation between coronary artery calcification in asymptomatic subjects and both traditional risk factors and living in the city centre: a DanRisk substudy.Journal of Internal Medicine, 2012; 271 (5): 444

2. Tong H, Rappold AG, Diaz-Sanchez D, Steck SE, Berntsen J, Cascio WE, Devlin RD, Samet JM. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Appears to Attenuate Particulate Air Pollution Induced Effects and Lipid Changes in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults. Environ Health Perspec. 2012 Apr 19. [Epub ahead of print]

3. Image courtesy of Tungphoto

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New Evidence for Green Coffee Extract and Weight Loss

A new study suggests that green coffee extract may be an effective supplement in aiding weight loss (1). The supplement was linked with substantial weight loss, decreased body fat, and a decrease in blood pressure over the short study period.

The research, published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, followed a group of 16 adults over a course of 22 weeks.

Green Coffee Extract may help weight
Green Coffee Extract may help weight management (4.)

Each participant was overweight or obese, and aged between 22 and 26 years. The study used a high dose capsule (1050mg), a low dose capsule (700mg) and a placebo. The study was a “cross-over” design, meaning that participants cycled through the dose active doses and the placebo, taking each for 6 weeks. Each person essentially acted as his or her own “control”, meaning that the study results were more likely to be accurate and meaningful.

The diets of the participants were monitored throughout. “Their calories, carbohydrates, fats and protein intake did not change during the study, nor did their exercise regimen change,” study leader Vinson said. On average, the participants were eating around 2400 calories per day.

The subjects lost an average of 17 pounds over the course of the study. This was equal to 10.5% of their overall body weight. Each participant also lost an average of 16% body fat. Telephone interviews conducted 4 months after the study ended found that 14 of the 16 subjects had maintained their weight loss.

The caffeine in the supplement is unlikely to have contributed to the result. In total, the supplements provided up to 20mg caffeine – about the amount in a regular cup of coffee.

The active ingredient in the supplement actually appears to be chlorogenic acid. This is a compound naturally present in green coffee which acts as a strong anti-oxidant, quenching free oxygen radicals. Chlorogenic acid has been found to slow down the absorption of fat from the intestine and to activate fat metabolism in the liver (2). It also inhibits sugar absorption and influences glucose metabolism (3). Chlorogenic acid breaks down when coffee beans are roasted, meaning that drinking regular coffee will not offer the same benefits.

The design of the study used only a short break between each ‘cycle’, where the subjects swapped between supplements, and this may have affected the result. Despite this limitation, the authors concluded that the green coffee supplement may be “an effective neutraceutical in reducing weight in preobese adults, and may be an inexpensive means of preventing obesity in overweight adults.”

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Vinson J, Burnham B, Nagendran MV (2012) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, linear dose, crossover study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a green coffee bean extract in overweight subjects. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 5: 21-27.

2. Shimoda H, Seki E, Aitani M (2006) Inhibitory effect of green coffee bean extract on fat accumulation and body weight gain in mice. BMC Complement Altern Med 17;6:9.

3. Narita Y, Inouye K. (2009) Kinetic analysis and mechanism on the inhibition of chlorogenic acid and its components against porcine pancreas alpha-amylase isozymes I and II. J Agric Food Chem. 14;57(19):9218-25.

4. Image courtesy of Foto76

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Omega-3 supplements buffer the effect of mental stress

Mental stress is known to have a negative effect on heart health, and unmanaged stress is linked with increased blood pressure, an important predictor of heart disease. Managing mental stress can be a huge help to those looking to support their cardiovascular health. Of course this is often easier said than done. After all, stress is a part of everyday life and it cannot be eliminated entirely.

However, managing our physical reaction to mental stress may be one way to support heart health.

High EPA
Omega 3 supplements high in EPA can be good for mental stress and heart health

With this in mind, a team of researchers at Alleghany College in the US recently investigated the effects of an omega-3 supplement on the effect of mental stress in adults. The team gave a group of 43 college students either a daily omega-3 supplement or a daily placebo supplement for three weeks. They then measured blood pressure and heart rate of the students at rest and during a mental arithmetic task. The stress response to the maths test in the omega-3 group was found to be significantly lower than that of those in the placebo group.

The authors concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cardiovascular reactivity to stress.
The study is preliminary and will hopefully encourage further research to clarify the role of omega-3 in cardiovascular health.

The supplement used in the study provided a daily dose of 1400mg omega-3 (1000mg EPA and 400mg DHA). This intake is fairly normal for adults living in countries such as Japan where fish, seafood and tofu are a major part of the diet. In the UK, however, the level of omega-3 in the diet is far lower and is estimated at an average of 244mg daily.

Options for increasing EPA and DHA intakes include use of fish oil supplements, increased consumption of fish or consumption of foods enriched with omega 3 such as omega-3 enriched eggs.

Those considering taking fish oil supplements should first check with their GP, especially if they are taking medications such as anticoagulants. Also, be sure to choose a good quality oil that has been screened for contaminants. Finally, if your fish oil supplement leaves you with a fishy aftertaste this is a sign that the oil has oxidised (‘gone off’). I tend to favour omega-3 oils that can be taken straight from the spoon, such as the Eskimo brand, so that I can be sure on tasting that it is a good quality, fresh oil.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
Ginty AT, Conklin SM. Preliminary Evidence that Acute Long-Chain Omega-3 Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress: A Randomized and Placebo Controlled Trial. Biol Psychol. 2012, Jan. 89(1):269-72.

 

 

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