by Baseline of Health Staff
Everyone knows that high blood pressure is harmful. It puts unneeded strain on your body, giving you a higher chance of developing heart disease and putting you at high risk for stroke. Unfortunately, the news only gets worse. A new study out of the University of California San Diego has shown that even a slight elevation in blood pressure – known as “prehypertension” – can significantly increase your risk of having a stroke.
The study showed that people with blood pressure readings previously considered safe actually had a 50 percent greater risk of stroke than those with normal blood pressure. The researchers evaluated the findings from 12 different studies that had a combined total of nearly 520,000 participants.
Prehypertension, in which one has slightly high blood pressure, is believed to affect close to one-third of the population of the United States. Scarily, there are no symptoms to alert you that you even have the condition. When you have normal blood pressure, your systolic reading is less than 120 and your diastolic reading is less than 80. With prehypertension, the systolic measures between 120 and 139, while the diastolic measures between 80 and 89. Anything higher than those numbers, and you are diagnosed with hypertension.
The study’s scientists determined that those people with blood pressure just over normal — a systolic reading of 120 to 129 and a diastolic reading of 80 to 84 — didn’t face a significantly higher stroke risk than those with normal readings. However, there was a major difference for those whose blood pressure measurements were just above that — closer to hypertension but without actually reaching it. And in those people with a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 and a diastolic pressure between 85 and 89 and who were under the age of 65, the risk of a stroke was almost 80 percent higher than in those with normal blood pressure. To repeat, that was in subjects under the age of 65! Perhaps this plays a major role in the increasing incidence of strokes.
This is hardly the first time there have been reports about strokes on the rise, especially in younger people. This past spring, a study conducted at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that the rate of strokes in children and younger adults has risen tremendously between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s — in some age groups as much as 51 percent.
We don’t know how many of these younger people had been diagnosed with hypertension or prehypertension, but it’s probably safe to say that quite a few of them most likely had elevated blood pressure to some degree. And now, we know that certain levels of prehypertension are very dangerous.
So how do we combat hypertension? One extremely effective way is by losing weight and keeping it off. The more body mass you have, the more pressure you need to force blood through the system. If you lose weight, less pressure is required. If you smoke, stop. (No, really. Stop!) You can also try meditation or biofeedback to reduce stress. Stress increases heart rate and blood pressure, so lowering stress levels can help drop your blood pressure levels significantly. Changes to your diet such as including more omega-3 fatty acids and supplementing with proteolytic enzymes can reduce systemic inflammation and actually help remove arterial plaque build-up, thus opening up your arteries. Herbs such as passionflower, apocynum venetum, hawthorne, and stevia have all been shown in clinical studies to help lower blood pressure as well.