Treats that smack down high blood pressure
If your blood pressure inches into the uh-oh zone (anything above 124/84 makes your RealAge substantially older, and you’re more likely to suffer disabilities, impotence and wrinkled skin, too), should you wait to see if it comes down by itself?
Wait-and-see wisdom isn’t heart-smart at any age, say two new reports we think should be must-reads in every doctor’s office and at every kitchen table (yours!). Here’s why:
No. 1: Ignore early blood pressure increases, and you ignore heart damage. The first new study explains how blood pressure “creep up” in your 30s, 40s or 50s enlarges your heart, even if you’re otherwise healthy. This finding got a lot of attention recently at an international health meeting because so many docs still choose to “watch” rising blood pressure if you’re middle-age and your overall risk for heart trouble looks low. You shouldn’t do that, and neither should your doc!
No. 2: Keep your BP numbers healthy during middle age and slash your risk for big trouble later on. The second study shows that high blood pressure at age 55 puts a guy’s lifetime risk for a “heart event” at 70 percent and a woman’s at 50 percent.
Healthy levels from ages 40 to 50 lower everyone’s odds (that means yours) for cardiovascular disease in the future by nearly 50 percent.
So aim for what we recommend is the healthiest, most heart-friendly BP, 115/76, by reducing stress, eating smart, getting plenty of physical activity and enjoying these six surprising pressure-lowering treats:
Purple Potatoes. These spuds could lower your numbers by a respectable 4 percent. How: Violet-hued potatoes are packed with anthocyanins, the same good-guy chemicals found in berries that rev up your body’s artery-pampering antioxidant defenses. Pink, red and blue potatoes contain them, too!
Raisins. Snack on these sweet nuggets instead of chips, cookies or other processed stuff, and trim your blood pressure numbers by 5 percent to 10 percent. For extra oomph, toss them into other BP-friendly foods such as oatmeal, nonfat plain yogurt, salads or homemade banana bread. How: Raisins contain blood-pressure-friendly potassium, as well as fiber and beneficial compounds called polyphenols that keep artery walls flexible. That’s good, because stiff blood vessel walls raise pressure.
Pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts and walnuts. The magnesium in these goodies could lower the top number (BP at pumping time) in your reading by 3 to 4 points and your bottom number (BP at rest) by a respectable 2 to 3 points. You’ll get 150 milligrams of magnesium from an ounce of shelled pumpkin seeds and 81 milligrams in the same little handful of cashews. That’s a good start toward the 400-500 milligrams of magnesium you need daily. Make sure your multivitamin contains at least 100 milligrams of magnesium to top off your tank. How: This multitasking mineral helps keep a lid on blood pressure by balancing levels of sodium and calcium in and around your cells. It also helps arteries chill out and relax. Plus, the healthy fat in walnuts keeps inflammation out of your arteries and protects the level of nitric oxide (the stuff that dilates arteries and keeps blood pressure lower).
Protein. Reach for nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, leftover roast chicken, a slice of smoked salmon, a handful of nuts and you could trim your top BP number by 5 points and nudge the bottom number down a point, too. How: Protein keeps your blood sugar lower and steadier. Refined foods push blood sugar up, sending blood pressure along for the ride.
Dark chocolate. Pairing a square with berries, orange sections or your favorite fruit is like sending your arteries to a day spa. Eating a half-ounce of dark chocolate regularly drops numbers by 5 points, enough to lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 20 percent. How: Credit flavonols packed into dark chocolate. They boost production of artery-relaxing nitric oxide.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.