Lifestyle Works

Diet and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure ranks as the number-one risk factor for death and disability in the world. But what do we do if we already have it? That’s the topic of How to Treat High Blood Pressure with Diet.

The American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology (ACC, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend lifestyle modification is the first-line treatment. If that doesn’t work, patients may be prescribed a thiazide diuretic (commonly known as a water pill) before getting even more meds until their blood pressure is forced down. Commonly, people will end up on three drugs, with researchers experimenting with four at a time. Some patients even end up on five different meds.

What’s wrong with skipping the lifestyle modification step and jumping straight to the drugs? Because drugs don’t treat the underlying cause of high blood pressure yet can cause side effects. Less than half of patients persevere with even the first-line drugs, which can be due to such adverse effects as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and muscle cramps.

What are the recommended lifestyle changes? The AHA, ACC, and CDC recommend controlling one’s weight, salt, and alcohol intake, engaging in regular exercise, and adopting a DASH eating plan.

The DASH diet has been described as a lacto-vegetarian diet, but it’s not. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, but only a reduction in meat consumption. Why not even more plant-based? We’ve known for decades that animal products are significantly associated with blood pressure. In fact, if we take vegetarians and give them meat (and pay them enough to eat it!), we can watch their blood pressures go right up.

Rural Chinese have been recorded with blood pressures averaging around 110 over 70 their whole lives. They eat plant-based day-to-day, with meat only eaten on special occasions. How do we know it’s the plant-based nature of their diets that was so protective, though? Because in the Western world, as the American Heart Association has pointed out, the only folks getting down that low on average were those eating strictly plant-based diets, coming in at about 110 over 65.

So, as drugs never work—unless you actually take them, diets also never work—unless you actually eat them. There has to be a concerted effort to help ones-self if we expect results. Diet does have a huge bearing on blood pressure results.

— Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on July 4th, 2017

Ginger Root for Migraines

A double-blinded, randomized, controlled, clinical trial compared the efficacy of ginger to sumatriptan, also known as Imitrex, one of the top-selling billion-dollar drugs in the world in the treatment of migraine headaches. Researchers tried using only one eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger versus a good dose of the drug.

They both worked just as well and just as fast.

Most patients started out in moderate or severe pain but, after taking the ginger or the drug, ended up in mild pain or completely pain-free. The same proportion of migraine sufferers reported satisfaction with the results either way. As far as I’m concerned, ginger won—not only because it’s a few billion dollars cheaper than the drug, but because there were significantly fewer side effects in the ginger group. People taking sumatriptan reported dizziness, a sedative effect, vertigo, and heartburn. The only thing reported for ginger was an upset tummy in about 1 out of 25 people. (As a note of caution, taking a whole tablespoon of ginger powder at one time on an empty stomach could irritate anyone’s stomach!)

— Michael Greger M.D. FACLM,, June 22nd, 2017

Recipe of the Month

Hearty Breakfast Smoothie

150g soft tofu 3 T date jam (opt)*
1 banana ¼c PSSL**
3-4 kiwifruit ½-¾c water
2½c Quinoa

Place all ingredients in blender, except Quinoa. Blend until very smooth. Pour into bowl and mix in the Quinoa. May serve with sliced fresh fruit on top.

*Date jam is made by soaking dates in very hot water to just covering the dates for ten
minutes, then placing in food processor to blend.
Add to the smoothie if the kiwifruit is a little tart.

**PSSL is a mixture of equal amounts of Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds
and Linseed.
Mix them together and store in a jar and measure out and use as needed.

Note: May replace tofu with ¼c nuts, eg: cashew, almond (soaked is even healthier),
brazil nuts.
May replace kiwifruit with other in season fresh fruit; feijoas, peaches, apricots, berries,
pineapple, etc.
May replace water with fruit juice or dairy free milk.
May replace Quinoa with brown rice, millet or buckwheat.

This recipe is a great way to get raw food into those who are not keen on it.
The grain in the smoothie also makes one chew the food helping digestion.
It also makes a nice dessert.