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health and nutrition notes

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What is high blood pressure?  Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries and veins as it moves through your body. It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day, but if it stays up, you have high blood pressure. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.  When blood pressure is high, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other problems. High blood pressure is called a "silent killer,'' because it doesn't usually cause symptoms while it is causing this damage.  Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Someone with a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80 has a blood pressure of 120/80, or "120 over 80."

  • The systolic number shows how hard the blood pushes when the heart is pumping.

  • The diastolic number shows how hard the blood pushes between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.

Adults should have a blood pressure of less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Many people fall into the category in between, called pre-hypertension. People with pre-hypertension need to make lifestyle changes to bring the blood pressure down and help prevent or delay high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

In most cases, doctors can't point to the exact cause. But several things are known to raise blood pressure, including being very overweight, drinking too much alcohol, having a family history of high blood pressure, eating too much salt, and getting older.  Your blood pressure may also rise if you are not very active, you don't eat enough potassium and calcium, or you have a condition called insulin resistance.

What are the symptoms?

High blood pressure doesn't usually cause symptoms. Most people don't know they have it until they go to the doctor for some other reason. Without treatment, high blood pressure can damage the heart, brain, kidneys, or eyes. This damage causes problems like coronary artery disease, stroke, and kidney failure.  Very high blood pressure can cause headaches, vision problems, nausea, and vomiting. Malignant high blood pressure (hypertensive crisis), which is blood pressure that rises very fast, can also cause these symptoms. Malignant high blood pressure is a medical emergency.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Most people find out they have high blood pressure during a routine doctor visit. For your doctor to confirm that you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure must be at least 140/90 on three or more separate occasions. It is usually measured 1 to 2 weeks apart.  You may have to check your blood pressure at home if there is reason to think the readings in the doctor’s office aren't accurate. You may have what is called white-coat hypertension, which is blood pressure that goes up just because you're at the doctor’s office. Even routine activities, such as attending a meeting, can raise your blood pressure. So can commuting to work or smoking a cigarette.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on how high your blood pressure is, whether you have other health problems such as diabetes, and whether any organs have already been damaged. Your doctor will also consider how likely you are to develop other diseases, especially heart disease.  You can help lower your blood pressure by making healthy changes in your lifestyle. If those lifestyle changes don't work, you may also need to take pills. Either way, you will need to control your high blood pressure throughout your life.

  • If you have prehypertension, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes. These may include losing extra weight, exercising, limiting alcohol, cutting back on salt, quitting smoking, and eating a low-fat diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.

  • If you have high blood pressure without any organ damage or other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may recommend that you take medicine in addition to making lifestyle changes.

  • If you have high blood pressure and have some organ damage or other risk factors for heart disease, you may need to try various combinations of medicines in addition to making big lifestyle changes.

Most people take more than one pill for high blood pressure. Work with your doctor to find the right pill or combination of pills that will cause the fewest side effects.It can be hard to remember to take pills when you have no symptoms. But your blood pressure will go back up if you don't take your medicine. Make your pill schedule as simple as you can. Plan times to take them when you are doing other things, like eating a meal or getting ready for bed.

What can you do to prevent high blood pressure?

There are six lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent high blood pressure:

  • Lose extra weight.

  • Eat less salt.

  • Exercise.

  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women and lighter-weight men.

  • Get 3,500 mg of potassium in your diet every day. Fresh, unprocessed whole foods have the most potassium. These foods include meat, fish, nonfat and low-fat dairy products, and many fruits and vegetables.

  • Follow the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and is low in fat.


    Is organic produce safer?  Most people choose organic produce for one simple reason: to avoid consuming pesticides. Organic farmers are prohibited from using virtually all synthetic chemicals, either to kill weeds or pests or to fertilize plants. Conventional farmers in this country can use around 200 approved synthetic chemicals—fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.

    No one disputes the fact that at least some of those chemicals end up on the fruits and vegetables we take home from the market. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regularly tests hundreds of samples of fresh and processed foods for pesticide residues and posts the results on its website (www.ams.usda.gov). The samples are gathered from a variety of markets around the country and represent a cross-section of what's available to consumers, including both organic and conventional produce. According to the latest results, which included 13,208 samples, 76 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables and 40 percent of processed fruits and vegetables had detectable residues. All of the milk tested, both organic and conventional, showed residues. Overall, about 30 percent of the samples were pesticide-free, 30 percent contained one pesticide and 40 percent had traces of more than one chemical. To be sure, the detected levels were very low in most samples, measured in a few parts per billion. According to the USDA, only 0.2 percent of the contaminated samples exceeded tolerance levels set by the federal government. (See "Where to Put Your Money," below.)

    Even organic produce isn't necessarily pesticide-free. Synthetic chemicals can drift over from nearby fields or leach into groundwater. All the same, organic produce is consistently lower in residues. In the USDA's samples, for instance, 76 percent of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables had detectable pesticide levels, compared to only 23 percent of organically grown produce. California does its own testing, independent of the USDA, I discovered. Its analysis found residues in 31 percent of conventionally grown samples and only 6.5 percent of organics


    a new Government study of gingko biloba found that it has absolutely no effect on increasing mental sharpness or memory.  

    Iif you think those fancy diet plans and diet foods help you lose weight and keep it off, think again.  In a study of 32,000 people researchers found that 83% of those who lost 37 pounds or more and kept it off for five years or more did it themselves.  The key, limiting simple carbohydrates such as flour and refined sugar, not skimping on protein, eating small quantities of healthful fats, eating generous portions of fruits and vegetables, developing a taste for high fiber grains and legumes and exercise.

    those who drink a lot of tea may decrease the risk of dying after a heart attack according to findings published in the American Heart Associations journal Circulation.  In a study of 1900 heart attack victims scientists found that those people who drank 19 or more cups of tea per week were 44% less likely to die than non-drinkers in the three to four years afterward.  

    spinach can reduce stroke risk but the real helper is and increase in folate levels.  The findings presented by Tulane University's School of Public Health in New Orleans tracked 9,764 healthy men and women asking them to record the foods they ate on a daily basis.  The study was done over a 20 year period.  Bottom line, consume at least 300 micrograms of folate per day.  That amount can be obtained from a glass of orange juice or a half a cup of spinach added to the normal diet..  

    getting 8 hours sleep?  Not so fast!!  New research shows that adults live longer if they get six or seven hours sleep.  Those who slept eight hours a night were 12% more likely to die within six years than those who got 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 hours.  The risk increased to 15% for those who got more than 8 1/2 hours or less than 4 hours.  The 1.1 million participants in the study were between 30 and 102 years old.  

    how do you take vitamin c?  Since vitamin c is water soluble the body expels whatever it cannot absorb.  So, it is better to spread your intake over the entire day with 3 doses rather than taking it all at once.

    HOW MUCH PROTEIN AND FROM WHAT?  Consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for strength building.  The leanest protein sources come from white meat poultry, fish, some game meat, and low-fat and non-fat cottage cheese

    Beef:  Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Flank Steak

    Lamb:  Chops, Roasts, or Legs.

    Pork:  Lean Ham, Loin Chops, Sausage (all with <one gram of fat per ounce).

    Poultry:  Skinless White Meat Chicken, Skinless Cornish Game Hen, White Meat Turkey, Deli Meats <1 gm fat/ounce.

    Game Meat:  Buffalo, Skinless Duck, Skinless Goose, Ostrich.

    Fish:  Grilled, boiled or baked Bass, Bluefish, Orange Roughy, Swordfish Steak, Tuna in water.

    Dairy:  Eggs, Cheese with <3 grams fat per slice. Low Fat and Non Fat Cottage Cheese.

    check out the new omega 3 egg at www.omegathree.com.  The new scientifically engineered egg which is available in grocery stores has 5 times more Vitamin E and 6 times more omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids than regular eggs. Omega-3's are good fats that fight cholesterol.  

    eating fish two or three times a week can help lessen the severity of depression according to a recent Finnish study.

    What's the latest research on coffee?  No more than 3 cups a day has no appreciable effect on health.  Coffee can be good for athletes as it facilitates the metabolization of fatty acids for energy, and the caffeine may cause a rapid release of calcium ions in muscles , enhancing muscle contractions and making them more efficient (Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine).  

    reduce your risk of prostate cancer by 34% by eating foods high in the antioxidant Lycopene found in abundance in tomatoes and watermelon.  Research was conducted by Harvard University with a sample group of 48,000 men.  

    to avoid having the calcium, aluminum, and magnesium hydroxide found in most antacids rob your body of the folic ace, zinc, iron and Vitamin B12, you consumed from your meal, take the antacid 2 hours prior or after eating.  Preferably prior so you won't have heartburn in the first place and can enjoy that spicy meal.

    1 medium sized apple contains no fat, no cholesterol, and more fiber than a serving of oatmeal.

    watch Ephedrine!!  Millions of Americans are taking ephedrine which is available over the counter in drug stores, nutrition stores and supermarkets.  It is an amphetamine like compound that stimulates the heart and nervous system and may be combined with caffeine to increase energy.  It is banned by the NFL, in the Olympics and by most sports federations except the National Hockey League.  Beware, this substance stimulates the heart and nervous system and dilates the bronchial tubes and can cause irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and other problems .  The safety of ephedrine has not been established but investigators are looking into a link between ephedrine use and the death of a college football player this fall.

    to much iron can render otherwise healthy adults prone to intestinal infections says Mark Failla, professor of nutrition at Ohio State University.  We may be getting to much iron in our diets.  He recommends limiting the amount of iron added to processed foods like cereal and treating just those with iron deficiency symptoms.  

    Click to buy your vitamins at WHOLESALE COST!

    oysters and clams contain very high levels of zinc.  Three ounces contain 500% of the recommended daily value and keeps disease-fighting white blood cells working properly.

    preserved or processed meats vs fruits & vegetables:  A large study by the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer concluded that eating processed or preserved meats can raise your colorectal cancer risk by 50%. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can cut it by 40%.

    honey:  Honey in its natural state is an instant energy source.  It contains "B" vitamins, amino acids and enzymes.  The honey sold at bee farms is the best. It has antibacterial action, can boost your immunity, and is a great source of energy for athletes.(

    the peels of fruits:  Carotenoids, the cancerous anti-oxidant fighters are found in greater concentration in the peels of fruits.  Fruits from the southern hemisphere have more that those from the northern hemisphere.  Look for guava, peaches, citrus and passion fruit. Additionally, choose whole fruits over fruit juices since whole fruits have more fiber.

    AUTUMN OLIVES:  A bush bearing a fruit similar in taste to a cranberry has been shown to contain 18 times the amount of Lycopene as found in tomatoes.  Lycopene is thought to protect against cancer.  The research will be published in October in the journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

    MUSHROOMS:  An excellent source of selenium.  The Harvard School of Public Health showed that men who consumed 160 micrograms of selenium per day cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65%.  Mushrooms also contain niacin, riboflavin, copper, potassium and pantothenic acid.  Mushrooms are low in calories and several varieties such as the shitake and the maitake, have immune boosting an cancer fighting properties. One cup of raw mushrooms has 18 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, and zero fat.

    BORON:  The School of Public Health at UCLA conducted a study which shows that 2 to 3 milligrams of boron a day can help prevent Prostate Cancer.  Apples, grapes, nuts and wine all contain significant amounts of boron.

    men:  According to research done at the University of Bristol, England, men who have sex three or more times a week cut their risk of heart attack and stroke by 50%.

    CHEESE:  One slice of full fat cheese contains 6 grams of fat, or 1/3 of your maximum daily recommended intake.  Eat low fat cheese or Parmesan or Romano.  Order your sandwiches and hamburgers without cheese.

    MARRIAGE:  According to Dr John Gottman, a Psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, a marriage filled with strife can cut 4 years off your life and increase your chance of illness by 35%.

    oATS AND VITAMIN E:  Yale University reports that taking vitamin E and eating oats can reduce the damage done to your arteries by high fat foods.

    ONIONS:  Help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.  They contain quercitin which is an antioxidant

    PEANUTS:  A good source of protein, high in "good fat,"  i.e. polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, and fiber. Best when eaten unsalted.  A GREAT SNACK FOOD, AND GOOD FOR YOU!!

    raw unsalted almonds:  The healthy fats in raw unsalted almonds help maintain the testosterone levels in men and protect joints during heavy lifting. Also, they have been found to increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad cholesterol, triglyerides and total cholesterol in people who used almonds and almond oil in place of other dietary fats.

    ST. JOHNS WORT:  The jury is still out on the effectiveness of St. Johns Wort.  For mild depression, some studies say it is effective.  A recent study conducted by Professor Richard C. Shelton, a Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, found no evidence of its effectiveness for severe depression.

    good advice:  Double your fruit and vegetable intake; avoid salted meat; alcohol in moderation; work your body, soothe your mind.

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Last modified: March 22, 2011, 0645 CST