A study of 14,392 individuals with high blood pressure, followed for 5-10 years, found that those who led a healthy lifestyle along with taking medications had a much lower risk of suffering from heart attack and lived significantly longer than to those who treated their high blood pressure only with drugs (Open JAMA network2022 Feb 1; 5 (2): e2146118). The lifestyle factors studied were:
• not smoking
• follow an anti-inflammatory diet
• exercise regularly
• avoid being overweight
• sleep seven hours every night
More than 1.13 billion adults worldwide (Hand2017; 389 (10064): 37-55) and nearly half of U.S. adults (116 million) have hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure above 130mmHg or diastolic blood pressure above 80mmHg, or who are currently taking medications for ‘hypertension (CDC Facts About Hypertension, January 28, 2020). Despite the numerous blood pressure medicines on the market today, the incidence of high blood pressure has increased considerably over the past 40 years (Nat Rev Nephrol2020; 16 (4): 223-237) and today causes over 10 million deaths annually (JAMA Cardiol, 2017; 2 (7): 775-781). Following a healthy lifestyle may be more important than just taking medication to treat high blood pressure (Bmj2019; 364: l571; J Am Coll Cardiol2018; 71 (19): e127-e248) because it lowers both high blood pressure and heart attack risk (Nat Rev Cardiol, 2021; 18 (4): 251-275). There is evidence that people who have a healthy lifestyle without taking medications have a lower risk of stroke or heart failure than those who have used antihypertensive medications but have not adhered to a healthy lifestyle (J Hypertens2013; 31 (11): 2158-2164).
How anti-inflammatory habits can lower blood pressure
High blood pressure can be caused by an overactive immune system (Hypertension Research2016 Apr 7; 39: 567–573). When a germ enters your body, your immune system produces white blood cells and chemicals called cytokines that attack and try to kill the invading germ, but as soon as the germ is gone, your immune system should die down. If your immune system stays on all the time (called “inflammation“), it uses the same cells and chemicals to attack you. The same thing happens when tissue is damaged; your immune system uses cells and chemicals to help tissues heal. Any invading germs and anything that damages tissues can cause the immune system to activate and cause inflammation. An overactive immune system can constrict blood vessels and prevent them from widening, causing hypertension. Anyone with high blood pressure should adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle to help treating their hypertension and people without high blood pressure should do the same to help prevent high blood pressure in the future.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet
• Anti-inflammatory foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains (not ground), beans, coffee and tea, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines. Virtually all fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory because they contain polyphenols that help protect you from chronic inflammation, such as isoramnetin, resveratrol, curcumin or vanillic acid found in onions, turmeric, grapes and so on. via (Br J Nutr, May 28, 2016; 115 (10): 1699–1710).
- Foods that cause inflammation (“pro-inflammatory foods”) include sugary drinks and foods with added sugar, foods made from flour and other refined carbohydrates, fried foods, mammalian meat, processed meats and milk, butter, margarine, fat and lard. See Anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory foods
Other lifestyle habits that increase inflammation
For most people, correcting a poor diet is the most important lifestyle change to reduce inflammation, but other unhealthy lifestyle habits can also promote chronic inflammation. Scientists haven’t worked out all the mechanisms, but it appears that any infection, anything that damages the body’s cells, or anything that promotes high blood sugar levels can cause inflammation, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, not exercising. or vitamin D deficiency. Other sources of chronic inflammation include:
• exposure to x-rays and other radiation, including excessive sunlight
• exposure to harmful chemicals such as some insecticides, herbicides or industrial chemicals
• a chronic infection anywhere in the body
High blood pressure can shorten your life, and although your doctor may recommend medications, lifestyle changes can be even more important in lowering high blood pressure and prolonging your life.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a villager. Learn more at www.dmirkin.com