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Definition of High Blood Pressure

Ninety-one percent of North Americans will develop high blood pressure that puts them at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and diabetes and premature death. Lowering high blood pressure helps to prevent disease and prolong life. Blood pressure has two numbers:
• systolic, when the heart contracts, and
• diastolic, when it relaxes.

The heart contraction (systolic) is most important. If your SYSTOLIC blood pressure is greater than 120, you have high blood pressure and should change your lifestyle to lower it. If it is greater than 140, your doctor usually prescribes pills in addition to lifestyle changes.

WHEN TO TAKE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE: Take your blood pressure just before you go to bed at night. Blood pressure is usually lower then and just after you wake in the morning. Blood pressures that do not drop at bedtime or are high when you wake in the morning increase risk for heart attacks and strokes.

SALT: For most people, excess salt intake is associated with high blood pressure and a modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks will help lower it somewhat (Cochrane Database Syst Rev., March 2004;3). However, many people do not develop high blood pressure when they take in large amounts of salt, and most people who have high blood pressure will not have a lowering of blood pressure when they try to restrict salt. People are classified as salt sensitive and salt insensitive on the basis of whether their blood pressure rises with excess salt intake, but there is no readily available lab test to diagnose those who are salt sensitive. People who are overweight, diabetic or do not exercise are the ones most likely to develop high blood pressure from excess salt intake. These people should restrict salt. Exercisers sweat heavily and usually need to take in a lot of salt to replace their losses.

FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: High blood pressure is associated with higher salt, alcohol or protein intake, and lower potassium, calcium or magnesium intake (Clin Care, Jan 2002;5(1):9-19). Other risk factors for hypertension include obesity and lack of regular physical activity (European Heart Journal, Dec. 2011;32(24):3081-7).

• ALCOHOL: Women who take one alcoholic drink a day and men who take two are at decreased risk for high blood pressures. Taking more than that, or binging even occasionally, raises blood pressure.
• OVERWEIGHT: The fatter you are, the higher the blood pressure.
• LACK OF EXERCISE: Exercise often lowers high blood pressure.
• NOT EATING LOTS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated and total fat (DASH diet) lowers high blood pressure.
• EATING TOO MUCH MEAT. A high-protein diet increases risk of high blood pressure.

Neither caffeine nor nicotine has been shown to cause sustained high blood pressure.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES TO LOWER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE:
• Lose weight if overweight
• Exercise regularly
• Eat a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds, and low in saturated fat (red meat) and refined carbohydrates. Avoid sugared drinks and if overweight, reduce your intake of foods made from flour or with added sugars
• If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a day. (A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 2/3rds of shot glass of alcohol)
• Check your blood pressure just before you go to bed at night.

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Cooking Without Water Increases Heart Attack Risk

Diabetics who eat foods with large amounts of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) are at much higher risk for heart attacks (Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, October 3, 2012). AGEs are more strongly associated with heart attacks than saturated fats are, and the more AGEs that you eat, the more likely you are to suffer a heart attack. The findings of this study should be heeded by everyone.

When you cook food at high temperatures without water, the sugar in food chemically and irreversibly binds to protein and fat to form Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). Cooking with water prevents this chemical bond. AGEs are formed during:
• frying (cooking foods in high-temperature oil),
• broiling or toasting (cooking near a high-temperature heating element),
• grilling (cooking on a hot surfaces), or
• baking (cooking dry foods in an oven).

Cooking methods that do not form AGEs include:
• boiling (cooking in boiling water),
• steaming (cooking food in steam rising off of boiling water),
• simmering (cooking in hot liquid that is not boiling),
• stewing (cooking foods in their own juices or gravy),
• stir-frying (heating wet foods with a small amount of low- temperature oil),
• cooking in a covered casserole dish or crock pot,
• microwaving.

HOW HIGH BLOOD SUGAR CAUSES AGEs: Besides getting AGEs from the food that you eat, you can also make them in your body. When blood sugar levels rise too high, sugar sticks to the outer surface membranes of cells by exactly the same mechanism that it does to foods. Sugar binds to protein, fat and DNA to form AGEs that damage the genetic material in cells. AGEs bind to, and damage mitochondria to limit a cell's programmable cell death to cause cancer. AGEs convert the bad LDL cholesterol to oxidized LDL cholesterol that damages your arteries to cause heart attacks and strokes. AGEs cause all of the horrible side effects of diabetes: blindness, deafness and other nerve damage, impotence, dementia, kidney failure and so forth.

HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE HIGH BLOOD SUGAR: Anyone with:
• a fasting blood sugar greater than 100,
• a blood sugar that is over 120, 2 hours after eating, or
• HBA1C greater than 5.7, showing sugar stuck on red blood cells,
has increased levels of AGEs and is at increased risk for damage to every cell in his or her body.

AVOIDING AGEs: The higher the cooking temperature, the more AGEs are formed. Virtually every cooking method used for meat forms AGEs, The browner or crustier the meat or bread, the more AGEs are likely to be in them. A healthful diet has most of the foods prepared with water-based cooking methods, or raw foods. Limit the amount of grilled, fried, broiled, toasted or baked foods.

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This week's medical history:
Stella Walsh, Olympic Female Sprint Champion

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

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Recipe of the Week:

Clementine-Wild Rice Salad

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

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October 28th, 2012
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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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