High Blood Pressure: Preventable Risk Factor for Premature Death

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio like this:

76 mm HG

The top number, which is the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart “beats”—that is, each time the heart muscle contracts.

The bottom number, which is the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats—that is, each time the heart muscle rests between beats and refills with blood.

The chart at the bottom of this page (fig. 1) reflects blood pressure categories defined by the American Heart Association.

Since the beginning of time, folks have been trying to crack the code on how to extend healthy human life. Today in the United States the life expectancy at birth is about 78 years old, a dramatic 28-year leap from the life expectancy in 1900.

Surely changes in environment such as better sanitation, antibiotic use and overall improvement of medical care are greatly responsible. While this upward trend is great, it raises a question about a related trend: Why are our longevity numbers slipping compared to other developed countries?

Recently, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study to assess the impact of 12 modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors on mortality in the United States. Because Juvenon’s mission is to add five quality years to our customers’ lives, we believe it’s important to focus on preventable causes of degeneration and early death. Many of the Harvard findings are to be expected, while others may come as a surprise.

Top Preventable Causes of Death
Smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity top the list of preventable risk factors for premature mortality. The Harvard researchers discovered that smoking is responsible for 467,000 premature deaths each year, high blood pressure for 395,000 and obesity for 216,000. According to the study, smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths in American adults. Perhaps more surprising, high blood pressure follows closely behind and is responsible for one in six deaths.

All of the deaths calculated in the study were considered premature or preventable. It’s also noteworthy that all of the risk factors can be modified.

High Blood Pressure Threatens Both Women and Men
While all of the risk factors chronicled in the study (including physical inactivity, high blood sugar, high LDL cholesterol, and so on) are worthy of attention, in this article, the focus is on high blood pressure.

In the U.S., about 77.9 million adults have high blood pressure. While a higher percentage of men than women have high blood pressure until age 45, the higher percentage shifts to women after that. According to the American Heart Association (2009), high blood pressure was listed on death certificates as the primary cause of death of almost 62,000 Americans and a contributing cause of death for just over 348,000 Americans.

High blood pressure is a sly enemy, as this preventable condition presents no symptoms. However, people with high blood pressure are more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline and even kidney problems.

The Role of the Mitochondria
Mitochondria are the membranes that enclose cells. As “cellular power plants,” they convert food to energy in order to supply energy to cells. They play a critical role in a range of other cellular processes such as cell differentiation, cell growth and cell death.

Mitochondrial function decline with age. This dysfunction results in increased ROS (reactive oxygen species) or ‘free radicals’ which cause inflammation and damage the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels (endothelial cells). An emerging explanation is that this leads to high blood pressure. Mitochondria are integral to proper cardiac function. When the mitochondria do not function adequately, the heart does not get its required fuel, resulting in hypertension and eventually cardiac failure. Fortunately, many people can lower their blood pressure naturally without medication.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
Now here’s the rub: according to the American Heart Association almost one-third of Americans have high blood pressure and don’t even know it. However, this can be remedied easily. The first, best step is to visit a doctor to obtain an accurate blood pressure reading and also advise you if it’s in the danger zone. Once you know that you have high blood pressure you can work with your doctor to control it. Between doctor visits you can monitor your numbers with an inexpensive home blood pressure device (some may be covered by insurance) or a free monitoring station available at many pharmacies.

According to the Harvard Medical School, this two-pronged approach is smart because as many as 20 % of Americans have different blood pressure at home than in the doctor’s office. This ‘white-coat hypertension,’ may be the result of the stress that many of us feel in a medical setting. Conversely, some people have ‘masked hypertension’ – normal numbers in the doctor’s office, but higher numbers at home during episodes of stress.

To get a precise read on your blood pressure, aim to test it in the morning before you take any medication or eat and then again in the evening. Keep track of your numbers for the week leading up to your doctor’s appointment. Armed with the in-home numbers and office setting numbers, you and your doctor can figure out an appropriate game plan, which may or may not require medication.

6 Lifestyle Changes That Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

1. Slim Down
The more you weigh, the more blood you need in order to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. Therefore, as the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels increases, so too does the pressure on your precious artery walls.

2. Exercise Your Ticker
It stands to reason that couch potatoes tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction, and the stronger the pressure on your arteries. Whether you aim for a brisk walk or a challenging marathon, exercise helps the heart use oxygen more efficiently, so it doesn’t need to work as hard to pump the blood.

3. Pile on the Potassium
According to the Mayo Clinic, potassium-rich fruits and veggies are an essential part of any blood-pressure lowering program. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If your diet doesn’t include enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood. So load up on bananas, orange juice, melon, potatoes, peas and dried fruits to up your potassium quota.

4. Quit Tobacco
Sure, you probably knew it threatened lung health, but did you know that smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raises your blood pressure? What’s more, the tobacco’s chemicals can damage the lining of your artery walls. And this in turn causes the arteries to narrow, which can increase blood pressure.

5. Eat Your Way To Healthy Blood Pressure
Studies now suggest that certain foods can work naturally to dilate blood vessels so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard. Blueberries, which contain natural compounds called anthocyanins, have been shown in studies to protect against hypertension. Additionally, nitrate-rich beet juice (or whole beets) can lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that a daily dose of dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, especially in those who already have hypertension.

6. Supplemental Support
“Is catalase safe to take?” “Should I consider a supplement?” For these frequently asked questions, the answer is a resounding “Yes.”  Targeted support for maintaining normal blood pressure can indeed include supplementation. Juvenon has been shown in a clinical trial to help support people maintain normal blood pressure levels. Juvenon’s patented combination of alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine has been shown in laboratory experiments to support proper mitochondrial function as cells age.

The catalase enzyme is so essential to well-being that it is found in nearly every living organism. However, our body’s ability to produce it tends to diminish as we age. Fortunately, nutrients in Juvenon have been shown to increase the production of catalase. This in turn promotes the body’s healthy functioning at a cellular level. A review of 12 studies found that the coenzyme Q10, which is found in Juvenon’s Q-Veratrol, may also help support normal blood pressure. Required for energy production and stored in the mitochondria, this antioxidant dilates blood vessels.

Additionally, there’s some evidence that vitamin C and vitamin D supplementation can be helpful in blood pressure support. Note: You should always consult with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any nutritional supplement.

As the Juvenon Health Journal explores other preventable causes of death cited in the Harvard study, be sure to search our site for details. By offering effective, all-natural supplements and health news you can use, Juvenon provides an essential toolkit to battle these aging enemies.