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HealthNotes

No Pressure: Manage Mild Hypertension for Stroke Protection

No Pressure: Manage Mild Hypertension for Stroke Protection: Main Image
Research has shown several supplements to have heart-healthy effects, including coenzyme Q10, fish oil, and green coffee extract
Even mildly high blood pressure (“prehypertension”) may dramatically increase stroke risk, according to research published in the journal Neurology. Through meta-analysis, study authors considered data from 19 previous studies involving about 762,400 participants. People with blood pressure levels above 120/80 but below 140/90 were 66 percent more likely to have a stroke over an eight-year period than people with optimal levels.

Blood pressure readings = a heart-health barometer

This finding underscores the importance of managing high blood pressure to lower stroke risk and help ensure overall heart health. So pay attention the next time you get your levels checked:

  • The top number = systolic blood pressure, when the heart contracts.
  • The bottom number = diastolic blood pressure, when the heart is at rest.
  • Currently, the American Heart Association recommends that treatment—starting with lifestyle changes, followed by medication, if necessary—should begin when blood pressure is at 140/90 until age 80. From 81 on, they recommend treatment begins with a reading of 150/90.

The “Secrets” to lower blood pressure: eat well, exercise, lose weight

If you are managing high blood pressure, protect your health by working with your doctor to create a program that includes these important basic steps:

  • Don’t skimp on the vegetables and fruits: 8 to10 servings per day is your goal.
  • Eat plenty of other fiber-dense foods like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Limit your intake of meat and poultry, and try to have some cold-water fish once or twice a week.
  • Limit fats, especially animal and trans fats, and empty calories from refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.
  • Cut sodium by preparing your own food instead of eating from cans and packages or eating out.
  • If you need to lose weight, cut calories by eating fewer high-calorie foods, not fiber-and-nutrient rich foods like vegetables.
  • Make room in your schedule for four or more hours of aerobic exercise every week.
  • Research has shown several supplements to have heart-healthy effects, including coenzyme Q10, fish oil, and green coffee extract. The research is always evolving, but as recently as this week another meta-analysis has found that omega-3s may improve blood pressure as much as healthy lifestyle changes and vitamin D was found to improve the heart’s response to stress.

(Neurology 2014, Published online before print March 12, 2014, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000268)

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