High Blood Pressure

I have high blood pressure, though I am fortunate to have found a medication that keeps it where it should be with no serious side effects.  It runs in my family and I’m overweight, so I’m not surprised I have it in spite of my regular exercise and diet rich in fruits and vegetables. 

According to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one in four Americans have hypertension.  Three-quarters of those people are overweight or obese.  About 32% of African-Americans, 27% of whites and 18% of Hispanics have it.  Approximately 59% of seniors have it, versus just 10% of adults aged 25-44.

Many people who have hypertension don’t know it because it rarely has symptoms, which is why it is sometimes called the “Silent Killer.”  With all the opportunities to get your blood pressure checked for free, it surprises me that the estimate is that perhaps a third of people with it are unaware.  If you haven’t had yours checked, do it.  Treating it can be very simple and inexpensive.  There are lifestyle changes you can try and a variety of different medicines, some costing only $4 a month.

I was checking for recent studies on hypertension and found a couple interesting results.  Scientists gave overweight people 6-8 golf-ball sized purple potatoes twice daily for a month.  According to Joe Vinson, who headed the research study, “The average diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4.3 percent and the systolic pressure decreased by 3.5 percent.”  Next up is a study using white potatoes, to see if they get the same result.

I see some problems with the study, primarily the small size (only 18.)  It said none of the participants gained weight, but did any of them lose weight?  Did they substitute the healthy potatoes for unhealthy foods?  Potatoes do get a bad rap, though, so I’m glad to see a study show them in a good light.  Even if they don’t lower your blood pressure, they’re healthy.  Just don’t fry them or slather them in butter. 

Scientists also found that poor sleep quality increases the risk of hypertension.  The study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association reports that the men with the lowest amount of slow wave sleep had an 80% higher risk of developing high blood pressure.  Slow wave sleep (SWS) is a deep sleep that it’s hard to awaken from.  Dr. Susan Redline said, “Our study shows for the first time that poor quality sleep, reflected by reduced slow wave sleep, puts individuals at significantly increased risk of developing high blood pressure….”

The researchers followed 784 men who did not have hypertension at the beginning of the study for 3.4 years.  The study took into account obesity, sleep apnea and other sleep problems, but the correlation with diminished slow wave sleep was strong.  Finding a way to increase SWS could help prevent hypertension, particularly in the elderly and men who are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders.

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