The number-one risk factor for death in the world (according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of the causes of death ever undertaken) is high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure reportedly lays waste to nine million people worldwide every year. It kills so many people because it may contribute to deaths from a variety of causes, including aneurysms, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure, and stroke.
Increased blood pressure may put a strain on the heart and damage the sensitive blood vessels in our eyes and kidneys, cause bleeding in the brain, and even lead certain arteries to balloon and rupture. The fact that hypertension is able to damage so many organ systems and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, two of our leading killers, explains why it is the number-one killer risk factor worldwide.
As you age, your blood pressure tends to get higher and higher. Is high blood pressure, like wrinkles or gray hair, just an inevitable consequence of aging? We’ve known for nearly a century that this isn’t true, based on studies of population studies in areas like rural China where average blood pressures remained around the ideal of 110/70 their entire lives. Their plant-based diets may have played a factor given that the only population in the Western world that enjoys such low average pressures may be those eating strictly plant-based.
So high blood pressure may be a choice: We can continue eating the artery-bursting Western diet, or we can choose to take off the pressure by centering our diet around unprocessed (no added sodium) plant foods. Eliminating humanity’s primary risk factor for death may be simple. No drugs, no scalpels. Just forks.
Image Credit: AlexRaths / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Blood Pressure
All Videos for Blood Pressure
Prescription: Nutrition Episode 3 – Spilling the Beans
I team up with chef Rich Landau and public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter to discuss the health benefits and preparation of beans.
The Benefits of Kale and Cabbage for Cholesterol
Dinosaur kale and red cabbage are put to the test.
Is It Better to Drink a Little Alcohol than None at All?
Even if alcohol causes cancer and there is no “French paradox,” what about the famous J-shaped curve, where yes, excessive drinking is bad, but light drinkers appear to actually have lower mortality than abstainers?
Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?
The risks and benefits of aloe vera.
How Much Lead Is in Organic Chicken Soup (Bone Broth)?
Lead from occupational exposures, shooting ranges, eggs and bone broth is reviewed.
Are Avocados Fattening?
Avocado Board-funded studies suggest avocados may facilitate weight loss, but compared to what?
Dr. Greger in the Kitchen: My New Favorite Beverage
Dr. Greger blends up a vegetable smoothie inspired by a recipe in his How Not to Die Cookbook.
Saffron vs. Memantine (Namenda) for Alzheimer’s
The spice saffron is pitted head-to-head against the leading drug for severe Alzheimer’s disease.
Amla vs. Drugs for Cholesterol, Inflammation, & Blood-Thinning
Indian gooseberry extracts put to the test head-to-head against cholesterol-lowing statin drugs and the blood thinners aspirin and Plavix.
Do the Pros of Brown Rice Outweigh the Cons of Arsenic?
Are there unique benefits to brown rice that would justify keeping it in our diet despite the arsenic content?
Cancer Risk from Arsenic in Rice & Seaweed
A half-cup of cooked rice a day may carry a hundred times the acceptable cancer risk of arsenic. What about Maine coast seaweed?
The Effects of Too Much Arsenic in the Diet
Even at low-level exposure, arsenic is not just a class I carcinogen, but may impair our immune function and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.