Sunday, April 24, 2011

O2 HEALTH > Hypertension - Keeping blood pressure in a healthy range

Main complications of persistent high blood pr... 

Reviewed by  Dr. Damigo; PhD

One in three American adults has high blood pressure
Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. Sometimes people can keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.

Conquering your salt habit

Salt — sodium chloride — is essential for survival. Your body depends on sodium to transmit nerve impulses, contract muscle fibers, and, along with potassium, to balance fluid levels in all your cells. Because the human body is so good at conserving this vital mineral, you need only a tiny amount of sodium. Some tribes, like the South American Yanomamo Indians, consume a mere 200 mg, or about one-tenth of a teaspoon of salt—per day. Thousands of years ago, when humans roamed the earth gathering and hunting, sodium was scarce. But potassium — found naturally in many plant-based foods — was abundant. In fact, the so-called Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium.
Today, the average American diet contains about twice as much sodium as potassium, thanks to the preponderance of salt hidden in processed foods. This sodium-potassium imbalance, which is at odds with how humans evolved, is thought to be a major contributor to high blood pressure. Findings from the Trials of Hypertension Prevention study suggest that changing the balance between these two minerals can help the heart and arteries. Researchers measured the amounts of sodium and potassium excreted over the course of 24 hours by nearly 3,000 volunteers. (The amount excreted is a good stand-in for the amount consumed.) The higher the ratio of sodium to potassium, the greater the chance of having a heart attack or stroke, needing bypass surgery or angioplasty, or dying of cardiovascular disease over 10 to 15 years of follow-up, as described in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

To reverse the ratio, choose foods with a high proportion of potassium to sodium (see Table 6).

Table 6: The power of potassium
Most people eat too much sodium and not enough potassium. To counteract this trend, try eating more foods with a high potassium-to-sodium ratio.
Food Potassium-to-sodium ratio
Banana 422 to 1
Black beans, cooked without salt 305 to 1
Orange 232 to 1
Grapefruit juice 126 to 1
Peanuts, dry roasted, no salt 93 to 1
Peanuts, dry roasted, with salt 0.8 to 1
Avocado 69 to 1
Raisins 68 to 1
Baked potato, plain, with skin 54 to 1
Fast-food French fries 2.5 to 1
Peanut butter, without salt 42 to 1
Peanut butter, with salt 1.4 to 1
Brussels sprouts, steamed 35 to 1
Applesauce (jar), no salt 31 to 1
Applesauce (jar), with salt 2.2 to 1
Oatmeal, regular 18 to 1
Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal 0.5 to 1
Cantaloupe 17 to 1
Halibut, baked 8 to 1
Spinach, boiled 7 to 1
Salmon, baked 6 to 1
Salmon, canned 0.8 to 1
V8, low-sodium 6 to 1
V8, regular 1 to 1
Carrots, raw 5 to 1
Milk, 1% 3 to 1
Cheerios 0.9 to 1
Marinara sauce, prepared 0.8 to 1
Pork and beans, canned 0.7 to 1
Fast-food cheeseburger 0.4 to 1
French bread 0.2 to 1
Cornflakes 0.1 to 1

Hypertension: Controlling the "silent killer"

This report details those changes, including a Special Section that features numerous ways to cut excess salt from your diet — a policy strongly recommended by new federal guidelines. This report also includes tips on how to use a home blood pressure monitor, as well as advice on choosing a drug treatment strategy based your age and any other existing medical issues you may have.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Randall M. Zusman, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Director, Division of Hypertension, Massachusetts General Hospital. 48 pages. (2011)

Blood pressure basics
  • Understanding the numbers
  • What does blood pressure measure?
Types of hypertension
  • Essential hypertension
  • Isolated systolic hypertension
  • Secondary hypertension
  • White-coat hypertension
  • Labile hypertension
  • Resistant hypertension
  • Malignant hypertension
  • Hypertension during pregnancy
Are you at risk for hypertension?
  • Risk factors you can’t change
  • Controllable risk factors
  • Sedentary lifestyle
How hypertension damages your health
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Dementia
  • Kidney disease
  • Eye damage
Diagnosing hypertension
  • Testing for hypertension
  • Monitoring blood pressure at home
Lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure
  • Quit smoking
  • Attain a healthy weight
  • Follow a healthful diet
  • Be active
  • Stress less
SPECIAL BONUS SECTION: Conquering your salt habit
  • Strategies for cutting back on salt
Medications for treating hypertension
  • Classes of hypertension drugs
  • The right drug for the right person

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