Blood pressure is the force exerted against your artery walls. A blood pressure reading is comprised of two numbers. The top number is the systolic pressure, which represents the force against artery walls when the heart beats and sends blood throughout the body. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, which is the force against artery walls in between heart beats, or another way to state this, when the heart is at rest and filling with blood.
High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, increases your risk for heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and eye damage.
A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 (top number) and less than 80 (bottom number). Prehypertension, meaning you are at risk for high blood pressure, is a range between 120-139 and 80-89. High blood pressure is a ready greater than 140 and 90.
What causes high blood pressure?
Let me begin by pointing out this finding is based off a small study of only 24 volunteers, but if the findings are accurate…what a relaxing way to promote a lower blood pressure!
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, exerts force against artery walls. If the force is high, it’ll cause microscopic tears that turn into scar tissue. This scar tissue promotes the accumulation of plaque in their artery walls causing arteries to narrow and harden.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 67 million American adults have high blood pressure. Or to state another way…that is 1 in every 3 American adults.
Why this happens is still unknown.
It’s speculated that nitric oxide plays a role. The skin contains nitric oxide metabolites. It is hypothesized that UVA exposure mobilizes the nitric oxide into circulation resulting in beneficial cardiovascular effects.
Researchers speculate this may play a role in why those in the “darker north”, such as Scotland, have higher death rates associated with heart disease. Incidence of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease rises in the winter and in relation to latitude.
The 24 volunteers in the study obtained the equivalent of 30 minutes of natural sunlight at noon on a sunny day in Southern Europe. Just in case lower blood pressure is caused by warming, the volunteers were protected from this warming effect. Researchers found volunteers blood pressure reduced by about five points with the effects lasting a half hour.
That doesn’t mean potential negative effects associated with too much sunlight, such as skin cancer, should be ignored in favor of this potential cardiovascular benefit. However, it be worth exploring a healthy balance of time in the sun against preventive measures to protect your skin.
If you are working to lower your blood pressure, access the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure at http://lowerbloodpressurewithlisa.com.
All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
On the road to heart health, start with weight control. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight promotes overall health and prevents many diseases, including heart disease. Living with extra weight, puts an increased burden on your heart muscle. Being overweight or obese puts you at increased risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and other health
Here are five additional steps you can take for heart health:
1. Exercise more.
Being inactive is a major risk factor for heart disease. Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, has many heart related benefits. For example, exercise will strengthen your heart, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure.
2. Cut back on salt.
Salt can hide in places you may not expect. Read food labels. For some individuals, a high sodium diet is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts excess work on the heart and can lead to stroke and heart failure.
3. Avoid trans fat.
Trans fat increase LDL cholesterol, increase triglycerides and lowers HDL cholesterol. The FDA no longer recognizes trans fats as “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. Read food labels and select heart healthy oil when cooking, such as olive oil or canola oil.
Internationally-renowned registered dietitian, Ashley Koff, has answered some questions on Omega-3 and Omega 6.
What are Omega-3 and Omega-6?
Ashley Koff: Omega-3 and Omega-6s are essential fatty acids (EFAs). Both are essential to the structure and function of our cells, and regulate critical aspects of brain function, metabolism, and immune-system health. We cannot make omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our bodies, so we have to get them from foods or supplements.
We need omega-3s in our diet to help prevent chronic inappropriate inflammation. Insufficient omega-3s are associated with a lengthy list of health problems including heart attacks and stroke. Unfortunately, most Americans get a high percentage of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in their diets but not enough omega-3s. In fact, the average American diet now provides 20 or more parts omega-6s to one part omega-3s. That’s about seven times higher than the three-to-one intake ratio shown to deter major diseases and promote optimal health. We need to bring that back into a healthful balance.
There’s an easy, at-home way to check your own levels with a Vital Omega-3 and -6 HUFA Test kit. It’s available through VitalChoice.com, and is discounted to participants of the 100 Days to Better Heart Health Program. It’s a great way to know your omega balance starting point, as you challenge yourself to improve your ratio.
What are some common food sources of omega-6 that should be limited?
Ashley Koff: Omega-6 fats are found in the vegetable oils, such as corn and soy, that started replacing butter and lard in the 1960s. They are also found in most margarines, and in most baked goods as well as in fast-food meals and other restaurant dishes.
What are some top food choices you recommend to boost daily omega-3 intake?
Ashley Koff: There are two primary types of omega-3. The only type your body needs is long-chain (EPA and DHA) which is found in seafood. You can get short chain omega-3s (ALA) from plant sources such as flax, but the body can only convert less than 10 percent of dietary ALA into EPA, and less than one-half of one percent into DHA. That’s why it is best to try for two servings a week of fatty fish, such as wild salmon, sardines and tuna.
Do you recommend omega-3 supplements? Continue reading
Trans fats are produced during the process of hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated oils are used in food production to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life of many processed foods. Partially hydrogenated oils have been used in food production for quite some time. It was in 1911 when Protor & Gamble began using partially hydrogenated oils in the shortening Crisco. The hydrogenation process, which results in trans fats, made it possible to stabilize oil.
The Health Concerns
Unfortunately, trans fats come with many health concerns. They increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while decreasing HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats are linked to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), required food manufacturers to report trans fat content on food labels. Research shows this did help Americans to reduce their trans fat intake from an average of 4.6 grams per day in 2006 to 1 gram per day on average in 2012.
Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)
Any substance added to food is considered a food additive and must be reviewed and approved by the FDA. This review and approval does not have to take place if the food additive is generally recognized as safe under the conditions of its intended use among qualified experts. Up until now, trans fats have been on the “Generally Recognized As Safe” list.
Recently the FDA announced that partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. the primary source of trans fats) are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. This preliminary determination is based on current research findings and reviews of expert scientific panels. This means the FDA has begun a 60-day comment period to collect more data, as well as determine how much time is needed for food manufacturers to eliminate the use of partially hydrogenated oils in production.
What You Can Do
You don’t need to wait for food manufactures to change their methods. You can read food labels now to eliminate trans fats from your diet.
Here are some foods that may contain trans fats: