How to Prevent High Blood Pressure with Diet

How to Prevent High Blood Pressure with Diet
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High blood pressure, the #1 killer risk factor in the world, may be eliminated with a healthy enough diet.

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The most comprehensive and systematic analysis of causes of death ever undertaken allows us to answer questions like: how many lives could we save if people cut back on soda? The answer? Our best estimate: 299,521. Soda isn’t just bad because it’s empty calories, so it’s not a health-promoting food. It appears to be an actively death-promoting food. Of course not as deadly as bacon, bologna, ham, or hot dogs: 800,000 deaths every year, killing twice as many women as domestic violence; five times more people than all illegal drugs combined.

But eating more whole grains could save 1.7 million lives every year; more vegetables, 1.8 million lives. If only we ate more nuts and seeds, 2.5 million lives saved. But fruit is apparently what the world needs most (they didn’t look at beans): 4.9 million lives hang in the balance every year, and the cure is not drugs or vaccines; the cure is fruit.

One reason why plant-based diets can save so many millions is because the #1 killer risk factor in the world is high blood pressure, laying to waste nine million people, year after year.

In the United States, high blood pressure affects nearly 78 million—that’s one in three of us, and as we age, our pressures get higher and higher, such that by age 60, it strikes more than half. If it affects most of us when we get older, maybe it’s less a disease, and more just a natural, inevitable consequence of aging? No. We’ve known for nearly a century that high blood pressure need never occur. Researchers measured the blood pressure of a thousand people in rural Kenya who ate a diet centered around whole plant foods. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and dark green leafies. Up until age 40, the blood pressures of rural Africans were about the same as Europeans and Americans, down around 120 over 80, but as Westerners age, their pressures creep up such that by age 60, the average person is hypertensive, exceeding 140 over 90. But what about those not following the Western diet? Their pressures improved with age; not only did they not develop hypertension, their blood pressures actually got better.

The whole 140 over 90 cutoff is arbitrary. Just like studies show that the lower the cholesterol the better, there’s really no safe cholesterol level above about 150. Blood pressure studies also support the “lower the better” approach to blood pressure reduction. Even people who start out with blood pressure under 120 over 80 appear to benefit from blood pressure reduction. But is it possible to get blood pressures under 110 over 70? It’s not just possible; it’s normal, for those eating healthy enough diets.

Over two years at a rural Kenyan hospital, 1,800 patients were admitted. How many cases of high blood pressure did they find? Zero. Wow, so they must have had low rates of heart disease. No, they had no rates of heart disease. Not low risk, no risk. Not a single case of arteriosclerosis—our #1 killer—was found.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Shanta Rohse via Flickr.

The most comprehensive and systematic analysis of causes of death ever undertaken allows us to answer questions like: how many lives could we save if people cut back on soda? The answer? Our best estimate: 299,521. Soda isn’t just bad because it’s empty calories, so it’s not a health-promoting food. It appears to be an actively death-promoting food. Of course not as deadly as bacon, bologna, ham, or hot dogs: 800,000 deaths every year, killing twice as many women as domestic violence; five times more people than all illegal drugs combined.

But eating more whole grains could save 1.7 million lives every year; more vegetables, 1.8 million lives. If only we ate more nuts and seeds, 2.5 million lives saved. But fruit is apparently what the world needs most (they didn’t look at beans): 4.9 million lives hang in the balance every year, and the cure is not drugs or vaccines; the cure is fruit.

One reason why plant-based diets can save so many millions is because the #1 killer risk factor in the world is high blood pressure, laying to waste nine million people, year after year.

In the United States, high blood pressure affects nearly 78 million—that’s one in three of us, and as we age, our pressures get higher and higher, such that by age 60, it strikes more than half. If it affects most of us when we get older, maybe it’s less a disease, and more just a natural, inevitable consequence of aging? No. We’ve known for nearly a century that high blood pressure need never occur. Researchers measured the blood pressure of a thousand people in rural Kenya who ate a diet centered around whole plant foods. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and dark green leafies. Up until age 40, the blood pressures of rural Africans were about the same as Europeans and Americans, down around 120 over 80, but as Westerners age, their pressures creep up such that by age 60, the average person is hypertensive, exceeding 140 over 90. But what about those not following the Western diet? Their pressures improved with age; not only did they not develop hypertension, their blood pressures actually got better.

The whole 140 over 90 cutoff is arbitrary. Just like studies show that the lower the cholesterol the better, there’s really no safe cholesterol level above about 150. Blood pressure studies also support the “lower the better” approach to blood pressure reduction. Even people who start out with blood pressure under 120 over 80 appear to benefit from blood pressure reduction. But is it possible to get blood pressures under 110 over 70? It’s not just possible; it’s normal, for those eating healthy enough diets.

Over two years at a rural Kenyan hospital, 1,800 patients were admitted. How many cases of high blood pressure did they find? Zero. Wow, so they must have had low rates of heart disease. No, they had no rates of heart disease. Not low risk, no risk. Not a single case of arteriosclerosis—our #1 killer—was found.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Shanta Rohse via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

This is a video that’s long overdue. The downside of me just covering whatever pops up in the literature is that some really fundamental topics may not get immediate coverage.

Having a “normal” blood pressure may set one up for dying from “normal” causes such as heart attacks and strokes. For more on this concept, see When Low Risk Means High Risk. It’s like having a normal cholesterol level. See Optimal Cholesterol Level.

So it seems high blood pressure is a choice. Like cavities, or heart disease: Cavities and Coronaries: Our Choice.

Even end-stage malignant hypertension can be reversed with diet (thereby showing it was the diet and not other lifestyle factors that protected traditional plant-based populations). See Kempner Rice Diet: Whipping Us Into Shape.

Flax seeds, hibiscus tea, whole grains, and nitrate rich vegetables may offer additional protection:

Why not just take the drugs? See The Actual Benefit of Diet vs. Drugs and Why Prevention is Worth a Ton of Cure.

2020 Update – I just did a new series on blood pressure. See: 

And if you haven’t yet, be sure to watch How Not to Die from High Blood Pressure

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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