Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coconut water reduces high blood pressure

While doctors may be quick to write a prescription for blood pressure medication if your numbers are a little high, research shows coconut water is a highly effective natural remedy for lowering blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

A study published in the West Indian Medical Journal looked at whether coconut water and mauby (a tropical drink made from buckthorn tree bark) were effective in treating high blood pressure. Researchers tested the blood pressure of twenty-eight individuals for two weeks without treatment, and then again for two weeks during treatment.

Participants were divided into four groups: one control group received only bottled drinking water; one group received coconut water; one received mauby; and the last was given a combination of coconut water and mauby. Each participant drank about 10 ounces of their assigned formula twice daily.

Although it's easy to tell the difference between drinking water and coconut water or mauby, none of the participants knew exactly what they were drinking or that it could have an effect on their blood pressure.

The findings revealed interesting results. In the coconut water group, 71 percent of participants showed a marked decrease in systolic blood pressure and 29 percent showed a significant decrease in diastolic pressure. The group drinking mauby or the combination of coconut water and mauby also showed significant improvement.

The group drinking ordinary water actually showed an increase in systolic pressure in 57 percent of the participants, with no significant change in diastolic pressure.

Coconut Water: Nutrition and Hydration

These results may be explained by coconut water's unique nutritional content. Coconut water is rich in potassium, magnesium and vitamin C. All of these nutrients are linked to health benefits, including lowering high blood pressure. They also make coconut water an excellent way to hydrate your body without depleting vital minerals. Many health-conscious athletes choose coconut water over commercial sports drinks to replenish water, minerals and glycogen lost during heavy exercise.

The best coconut water is found in fresh young coconuts, which are green in color. This coconut water is fresh and raw, retaining its natural benefits in the purest form. Young coconuts can often be found in health food stores and international markets, but of course are most readily available in tropical regions. Commercial packaged coconut water is available as well, but these products are processed and pasteurized, and should be considered inferior to fresh coconut water.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blood pressure control is important - learn why

Researchers reporting in the journal Neurology have found that elevated blood pressure as we age contributes to stroke risk and memory loss associated with cognitive decline. Stroke is the fourth leading killer of adults in the US, and loss of cognitive abilities leading to dementia ranks in the Top Ten causes of mortality. Hypertension and other known stroke risk factors also increase the risk of developing cognitive problems, even among people with no history of the vascular disorder. Lowering high blood pressure to within an optimal range can have a profound benefit in preventing stroke incidence and averting memory-robbing cognitive decline.

Lead study author, Dr. Frederick Unverzagt, a psychiatry professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, analyzed the findings from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. The study followed 23,752 people with an average age of 64, who were free of stroke and cognitive problems at the start of the study. Participants underwent a Framingham Stroke Risk Profile, typically used to determine people's risk of stroke by measuring their age, blood pressure, education level, history of heart disease, smoking and diabetes status.

Lowering Blood Pressure Directly Decreases Risk of Cognitive Impairment

After four years into the trial, 1,907 people had developed memory and thinking problems, indicative of cognitive decline and a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. The study found that the higher a person's score on the Stroke Risk Profile, the greater the chance of developing cognitive issue after a four year period. Dr. Unverzagt commented "Overall, it appears that the total Stroke Risk Profile score, while initially created to predict stroke, is also useful in determining the risk of cognitive problems."

The trial determined that older age and thickening of the heart muscle (leading to increased blood pressure) were the most important independent factors with cognitive issues. For each 10 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure, cognitive decline risk increased by 4.1 percent. Additionally, each 10-year increment in age doubled the risk of cognitive impairment by about 30 percent.

Further evidence connecting lifestyle factors and cognitive decline is published in the journal Diabetes Care. Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard Medical School) have found that diabetes is a strong risk factor that promotes cognitive decline, and for the first time they provided the missing link to explain memory loss and degradation of normal thought processes.

Scientists report that high blood sugar and insulin surges cause the release of two adhesion molecules in the brain causing inflammation and triggering a series of events that damages blood vessels and triggers brain tissue atrophy. Critical functions such as decision-making, language, verbal memory and complex tasks are most affected by this health-robbing cascade of chemical reactions. Regular monitoring and maintenance of blood pressure and blood sugar along with rigorous measures to control these biomarkers within optimal range can prevent stroke and halt the process of cognitive decline.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

High Blood Pressure and Tai Chi Therapy

Tai Chi can help patients suffering from high blood pressure due to the calming effect of the practice. Way back in 2003, the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine’s Oct. 9th issue reported a study finding that Tai Chi “could decrease blood pressure and results in favorable lipid profile changes and improve subjects’ anxiety status. Therefore, Tai Chi could be used as an alternative modality in treating patients with mild hypertension, with a promising economic effect.” This study laid out a way to save our society, perhaps billions of dollars annually, and possibly save some patients with mild chronic hypertension the potential negative side effects of chronic lifelong medication. However, this largely hasn’t occurred.
I caught a glimpse why when I was staying in the beautiful mountain town of Otavala, Ecuador, with a woman known for her knowledge of traditional Indian medicines. A tour of young American medical students stopped here to listen and learn from the Indian woman’s tour of her herbal gardens. As I followed them, I asked a group of young bright medical students if they were aware that Tai Chi was found to reduce high blood pressure. One lovely young woman replied, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard that, but I would never prescribe it.”
I asked why, and she responded that she couldn’t because she didn’t know if it would work. Although Tai Chi studies do show that Tai Chi indeed helps lower high blood pressure, it is true that it does not reduce it in every person. However, it is also true that every drug prescription does not work on every person either. I suggested to the young medical student that she consider that many times I’ve been to the doctor, and he’s pulled out a prescription pad and explained, “Let’s give this a try, and see how it works for you, and if it doesn’t do the job, we’ll try something else.” Most of us are familiar with this, and by the confused look on the student’s face, I’m assuming her memory banks were bringing up similar images.

So, why are our medical universities giving students the impression that they should not be prescribing Tai Chi, since we know it can help lower high blood pressure for many, who if it is successful with them, can enjoy a lifetime free of chronic and costly medications? And not only do that, but offer a plethora of GOOD SIDE EFFECTS including a stronger immune system and healthier respiratory system. This is a deep and important question we need to be asking as patients and consumers, and health professionals must begin asking this question regularly in order to fulfill the duties of their Hippocratic oath. For, today we have even a much better understanding of Tai Chi’s potential than we did a few years ago, so ignorance or inconclusive data is not an acceptable explanation from our medical universities that train our future doctors, without teaching them about Tai Chi research, and what it portends for their future patients.
Today, we are clearer on exactly why Tai Chi is such a powerful therapy for high blood pressure sufferers. In a March 17, 2005, article by the Mayo Clinic staff posted at mayoclinic.com they lay out what a “stress response” is, and the effects it has on the body. This is at the core of high blood pressure problems and the physical changes chronic stress responses illicit that creates or aggravates hypertensive conditions.
In their article, they explain that a stress response, or “fight or flight” reaction involves our pituitary gland releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which sets a domino effect signaling other glands to produce additional hormones, such as adrenal glands which flood the blood stream with stress hormones, such as “cortisol” and “adrenaline.”
When ordinary life’s daily frustrations trigger this effect over and over again, the results can be damaging to the mind and body. Many of us experience this domino effect of triggers and hormones daily, which is why about 1/3 of Americans, or over 90 million Americans, suffer from high blood pressure.
Cutting edge scientists like Dr. Herbert Benson, President of the Mind/Body Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, are discovering a stunning reality through their research. In a wonderful article by Jeanie Lerche Davis at WebMD Medical News entitled The Mysterious ‘Medication’ of Meditation, she writes of how such researchers are discovering that “meditation can indeed be medication – creating long lasting physiological effects that reduce high blood pressure and even help unclog arteries to reverse heart disease.”
Dr. Benson, who is also associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, sought to prove how this effect could be shown objectively, and had five long-time meditation practitioners take MRI brain scans while meditating. Dr. Benson informed WebMD in the aforementioned article by Davis, “There was a striking quietude across the entire brain which was documented through MRI . . . The areas of the brain that became active from that quietude were those that control metabolism, heart rate, etc., . . . We knew meditation caused a relaxation response, but we couldn’t prove it. We knew that if you thought in a certain way, with repetition, that physiologic changes would occur in the body. Here now is proof that mind, in the form of repetition, is affecting the brain, which affects the body . . . ”
Stroke Magazine reported on a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, conducted by Dr. Amparo Castillo-Richmond, from the Maharishi University, more specifically on high blood pressure afflicting black people. The meditating group saw a reduction in the thickness of one of the arteries that supplied blood to the brain. Which indicates that blood flow is increasing. The group only using diet and exercise saw their artery walls getting thicker, which indicated that less blood was flowing through to the brain. This finding led Dr. Castillo-Richmond to make the profoundly exciting assertion, “It’s possible to reverse heart disease through meditation.” In fact, not only hypertension, but up to 90% of other illnesses sending us to the doctor are being caused by stress, according to Dr. Herbert Benson. Which makes Dr. Benson’s and Dr. Castillo-Richmond’s findings that meditative techniques can so dramatically alter our stress producing “fight or flight” response in healthy ways even more wonderful.
Dr. Benson explains, that the relaxation response triggered by repetitive forms [like tai chi, yoga, etc.] can result in decreased metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and also slower brain waves. Benson asserts that it is the repetitive nature of acts like praying the rosary, yoga, or tai chi’s physical repetitive muscular actions that provides the profound hope for reducing anxiety, mild and moderate depression, anger and hostility, hypertension, cardiac irregularities, and all forms of pain, which are made worse by stress.
This concept of Tai Chi being an effective tool for reducing or even avoiding incidence of high blood pressure or other illnesses all together, is echoed elsewhere. Mayoclinic.com also recommends Tai Chi for relaxation training in an article entitled, “Relax: Techniques to help you achieve tranquility” which also explains why relaxation is important and what you might experience by practicing tools that will help you relax.
They detail how you can improve body responses to stress, such as: Slowing your heart rate; Reducing blood pressure; Slowing your breathing rate; Reducing the need for oxygen; Increasing blood flow to the major muscles; Lessening muscle tension.
They go on to explain that practicing relaxation techniques may help you experience: Fewer symptoms of illness, such as headaches, nausea, diarrhea and pain; Few emotional responses such as anger, crying, anxiety, apprehension and frustration; More energy; Improved concentration; Greater ability to handle problems; More efficiency in daily activities. So, time and time again as we begin to examine one particular benefit of Tai Chi, such as lowering high blood pressure, we see a whole universe of potential opening up before us.
An article from Archives of Internal Medicine, as reported on NBC’s local WCAU Health explained a Tai Chi research program at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston revealed a great deal. The article authors wrote, “Overall, these studies reported that long-term Tai Chi practice had favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in elders . . . Cardiovascular and respiratory function improvements were noted in healthy people and those who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery as well as people with heart failure, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, arthritis and multiple sclerosis . . . Benefit was also found for balance, strength, and flexibility in older subjects; falls in frail elderly subjects; and pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects.” They add the actual ways that Tai Chi provides these benefits are not well known.
The fact is that less than .5% of the National Institute of Health’s budget goes to research alternative therapies, leaving yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage, herbal therapy, aroma therapy, and the entire massive field of alternative health systems to struggle over .5%, or a little over $100 million of the $28 billion (approx.) annual budget. Given the above studies, it boggles the mind that such a small portion of the health research dollars are going to Tai Chi.
To recap, about 1/3 of the American population suffers high blood pressure. Tai Chi is proven to be a beneficial therapy that not only has no bad side effects, but dramatically improves immune function, respiratory function, lowers the incidence of anxiety and depression, and profoundly improves the balance of practitioners. Tai Chi does more, but for our purposes here these profound realities are enough to show exactly why it is truly unbelievable that Tai Chi is getting so little scrutiny in medical research dollars, when it can save so many from chronic suffering and perhaps some from a lifetime of chronic costly medications.
It is time we all began to ask the question that all good consumers should ask, “What is the best way/product for my health?” If Tai Chi is that product, the next question is, “Why isn’t every physician offering it as an option to their patients with hypertension, as a prescription?” “Why aren’t all insurance policies covering such prescriptions for Tai Chi?” Ask and ye shall receive. We must become informed and demanding health consumers, in order to get the best health options available.
This article does not advocate self-treatment, and encourages all to make health choices in conjunction with their physician. However, if your physician is close-minded to anything but a certain group of health options, even when research indicates your choices may be wider, than it is time to have a good talk with your physician about possibly widening your options.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Celery As Blood Pressure Treatment

Celery contains a naturally occurring substance “apigenin” which helps reduce blood pressure
Eating celery regularly can control high blood pressure without the use of drugs according to China’s Hunan Hemotological Research Center.
Celery contains a naturally occurring chemical called “apigenin” which has been shown to dilate the blood vessels and contribute to preventing high blood pressure. Celery also contains very small amounts of a chemical in called 3-n-butylphtalide (3nb) which lowers blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscles that line the blood vessels. 3nb also lowers the level of stress hormones called catacholamines.

In the Middle East, patients have routinely been given half a pound of celery a day to control hypertension. According to researchers at the University of Chicago, animals fed celery extracts had blood pressure readings 14 percent lower than those animals who did not receive the extracts. The animals were given the equivalent of 2 stalks daily. Systolic blood pressure readings went down an average of 15 points.
Compared to other vegetables, celery has a high natural sodium content so it can satisfy the craving for salt on low-salt diets. It also has a high potassium value. This makes it excellent for people who are taking hypertensive medications. Celery contains 341 milligrams potassium and 125 milligrams sodium per 100 gram serving. Any food with a ratio of at least three parts potassium to one part sodium is good for people with high blood pressure. In the body, the ratio between potassium and sodium is more than two to one. Most prepared foods, including cooked vegetables, reduce the ratio more than tenfold.
When the diet is high in salt sodium is retained in the cells with a large amount of water. An abundant amount of potassium is necessary to displace the accumulated sodium in the cells. If potassium is not present, the tissue cells retain water with the sodium. For this reason doctors prescribe diuretics, commonly called “water pills” in order to remove the water. When diuretics are taken to lower the blood pressure, they work by removing sodium from the body. But when sodium is removed, potassium is also removed. For this reason potassium supplements are usually prescribed in conjunction with the hypertension drug.
Celery contains a natural diuretic substance and has been used traditionally in treating obesity because it tends to eliminate water weight. But the balance between sodium and potassium is not unbalanced as it is when synthetic drugs are taken.
For people who have blood pressure which is only mildly or moderately high, the eating of celery may be all that is needed to lower it to normal levels. But even for those who have extremely high blood pressure readings, celery can be helpful. Celery is an excellent diuretic that can improve the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication, meaning that the dosage of medication may be reduced.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lower Your Blood Pressure by Losing Weight

Losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can make a big difference to your blood pressure if you are overweight.
If you are overweight by more than a few pounds, chances are you have hypertension (or high blood pressure) even if you don’t know it. High blood pressure is pretty much a “symptomless” disease and you usually don’t know you have it until you get a reading done by a doctor or nurse.
It’s important to get regular checks especially if you’re overweight because (left untreated) hypertension affects your heart and your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
What is the link between weight and high blood pressure?
The two are linked because every part of your body needs a blood supply including any excess fat you are carrying. In fact, every extra pound of fat you have increases the total length of the small blood vessels in your body by about a mile. And the longer network of vessels means your heart has to pump harder to send the blood around your body – increasing blood pressure with every pound you carry.
But the good news is that these changes are reversible. Just as blood pressure tends to increase as you gain weight, losing weight reduces it. Sometimes the changes are dramatic.
Research has shown that, if you are overweight, losing 10kg (about 22lbs) can lower your systolic blood pressure level by up to 10mmgH – a figure that would not be a poor result for many of the blood pressure medications currently available. And it could certainly help you if you and your doctor are aiming to reduce the amount of medication you take.
The best way to lose weight is to gradually change your diet for a healthier one and slowly increase the amount of exercise you take. The weight loss programs which fail most are those which try to get you to change your whole lifestyle overnight. That is just not sustainable for most people.
By introducing more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, cutting down on junk food, reducing portion sizes and becoming a bit more active you will give yourself the best possible chance to succeed. A healthier diet and exercise not only leads to welcome weight loss but will also help reduce your blood pressure in other ways.
Why not take a look at Natural ways to lower your blood pressure for more ideas on losing weight to reduce blood pressure?