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Exercise and Diet Lower High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure has two components: the higher systolic when your heart contracts, and the lower diastolic when your heart relaxes. You have high blood pressure when your systolic is above 120 or your diastolic is above 80. Ninety-one percent of Americans will eventually develop high blood pressure, which increases their risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, kidney damage and other blood vessel disease.

Doctors do not diagnose high blood pressure with a single reading because some people have reactive hypertension that is not as dangerous as persistent hypertension. If you get one high reading in your doctor’s office, check your own blood pressure daily and chart the results. You can use the self-test stations that are available in many pharmacies, or buy your own blood pressure cuff for about fifty dollars.

Healthy people have their blood pressures drop in the evening. The person at highest risk for heart attacks and strokes is the one whose high blood pressure does not drop in the evening. If your blood pressure is above 120/80 consistently, particularly in the evening, you have high blood pressure and are at significant risk for serious disease. Check back with your doctor who will usually evaluate you for other risk factors for a heart attack and may prescribe drugs. Whether or not you take medication, you can improve blood pressure with lifestyle changes: diet and exercise. More than 80 percent of hypertensive Americans can bring their blood pressures to normal within a few weeks just by following a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds (the DASH diet).

A recent study confirms that exercising regularly lowers blood pressure to prevent heart attacks and strokes (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, August 2005). The researchers showed that you can lower high blood pressure on the first day of vigorous exercise. However, if you are out of shape, a single bout of intense exercise can cause a heart attack. Check with your doctor, then get a personal trainer or join a health club and learn how to begin a safe and effective exercise program.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are the new drugs for rheumatoid arthritis safe?

A study from Germany shows that the biologic medications Etanercept and Infliximab, advertised heavily to treat arthritis, have a 28 percent rate of side effects (Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2005.) Many doctors think that rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a person’s own immunity gone haywire. Instead of killing germs that get into your body, your immunity attacks your own joints. Currently the accepted treatment is to suppress your immunity with drugs that slow the inevitable destruction of joints. However, these drugs leave you relatively defenseless against infections. In the first year of receiving these biological immune suppressants, six percent suffered serious infections. Other immune suppressants such as methotrexate, gold, plaquenil and sulfasalazine have fewer side effects, but they are less effective in preventing joint damage. Nonsteroidal drugs, such as ibuprofin help control pain, but do not prevent joint damage.
My unconventional but often successful treatment of arthritis

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is there a connection between my fat belly, irregular periods and acne?

You’ve listed three of the most common symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects seven percent of North American women. Polycystic ovary syndrome is characterized by multiple cysts that occur when eggs cannot leave the ovaries, irregular periods, infertility, excessive hair on the face and body, acne, obesity and eventually diabetes. This condition is caused by high blood insulin levels that cause the ovaries to make huge amounts of male hormones and prevent eggs from popping into the uterus. Metformin blocks the high rise in blood sugar after eating that causes high levels of insulin. Eating refined carbohydrates causes the highest rise in blood sugar levels. You should avoid all foods made with flour, such as bread and pasta; fruit juices and sugared soft drinks; white rice, and foods made from milled corn products. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Check with your doctor for a diagnosis and to see if metformin (Glucophage) is appropriate for you. A recent study from Montreal showed that metformin increases ovulation in PCOS patients better than the more commonly used Clomid (reported at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting, October 21, 2005.)
More on PCOS

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I love the seafood stews that come from almost every region that borders on an ocean! They’re wonderful served over whole grains instead of white rice or pasta. Here are three of my favorites:

Cioppino (from Italy)
Kejenou (from Africa)
Paella (from Spain)

You'll find more in the seafood section of Diana's Recipe List

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June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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