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Health News Archive 29 - Blood Pressure
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High Folate Intake Lowers Women's Blood Pressure

Upping the daily intake of folate has been widely promoted in recent years to reduce women's risk of having a baby with spina bifida, but it also seems to have another benefit. Women consuming 800 micrograms per day or more of folate are significantly less likely to develop high blood pressure than women consuming lesser amounts, according to a report presented at the American Heart Association's annual conference on high blood pressure research in Chicago in October, 2004 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. John P. Forman of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital reported the data from the Nurses' Health Study I, which included 62,260 women between 43 and 70 years old, and the Nurses' Health Study II, comprising 93,043 women between 26 and 46.

None of the women had high blood pressure when they were enrolled. They completed detailed questionnaires about their diet, food preparation and health habits, including folate intake, every 2 years for an average of 8 years. The women also self-reported their blood pressures. The investigators divided the women into five categories according to folic acid intake, the average being approximately 250 micrograms daily.

Younger women -- those in the Nurses' Health Study II -- who consumed 800 micrograms or more per day had a 29 percent lower risk of high blood pressure than those who consumed less than 200 micrograms daily. Older women in the highest category had a 13 percent lower risk of high blood pressure than those in the lowest category.

"It is very hard to get (800 micrograms folate daily) from diet alone," Dr. Forman noted. "Essentially all the women in the highest category took supplements."

Source: Forman JP, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Folate Intake and the Risk of Incident Hypertension Among U.S. Women. Obstet Gynecol.2005; 105: 893

Forman JP, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Folate intake and the risk of incident hypertension among US women. JAMA, 293(3): 320-9

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Drinking Green Tea Keeps Blood Pressure Down

Drinkers of green tea and oolong tea are less likely to develop high blood pressure than nondrinkers, a Taiwanese study said.  The risk of hypertension, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, declined the more green or oolong tea was consumed regularly, the study by researchers from National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, said.

Some varieties of tea contain 4,000 chemical compounds, including flavonoids that help protect against heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, study author Dr. Yi-Ching Yang wrote in the report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

None of the 1,500 participants suffered from hypertension at the start of the study, and those who drank between 120 and 599 milliliters (4 to 20 fluid ounces) of tea per day for at least a year prior had a 46 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than nondrinkers.  Drinking 600 milliliters of tea or more a day lowered the risk of hypertension by 65 percent, the study showed. The researchers concluded consumption of moderate-strength green or oolong tea at 120 ml/day or more for one year significantly reduces the risk of developing hypertension.

About 40 percent of the study subjects were regular tea drinkers, and they were more likely to be younger men who smoked more, drank more alcohol and ate fewer vegetables.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, July 26, 2004. (164, 14:1534-1540, 2004) (

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Melatonin Lowers High Blood Pressure  

The hormone melatonin is shaping up as a new way to deal with high blood pressure. Dutch researchers have found that hypertension (high blood pressure) was reduced in men who took a small dose (2.5 mg) of melatonin at bedtime.

Melatonin is best known as a sleep aid and jet lag remedy, because of its effect on circadian rhythms, our internal “time clock” that regulates bodily functions. Although scientists don’t know exactly why, high blood pressure seems to be linked to irregularities in circadian rhythm. Since research into the melatonin-high blood pressure issue is only beginning, it’s premature for anyone with a serious blood pressure problem to replace medication with melatonin. But melatonin, which is also a highly regarded antioxidant, just might do the trick for those with mildly elevated blood pressure.     

Scheer FA, Van Montfrans GA, Van Someren EJ, et al. “Daily Nighttime Melatonin Reduces Blood Pressure in Male Patients with Essential Hypertension.” Hypertension 2004 Jan 19 [Epub ahead of print]

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Calcium Supplementation More Effective Than Sodium Reduction in Lowering Blood Pressure

Intake of calcium and minerals is more important than sodium restriction in reducing blood pressure, according to a recent analysis of data from a major study known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).

The findings were reported at the High Blood Pressure Research Council 57th Annual Conference. They were the result of data collected from 20,050 Americans ages 20 to 74 from 1980 to 2000 gathered as part of the NHANES study. In addition to blood pressure measurements, the data derived from NHANES included 24-hour dietary recall (subjects' recollection of food and supplements consumed). The amount of sodium, calcium and total mineral (calcium, magnesium and potassium) intake also was included in the NHANES data.

Researchers determined that salt intake only adversely affected blood pressure when a person was deficient in calcium.  When calcium intake was adequate, salt had no effect on blood pressure. As calcium intake increased, blood pressure decreased. The researchers concluded that salt sensitive hypertension is more likely to indicate a poor diet than a predisposition to hypertension.

Source: McCarron, DA, et. al. Dietary Society Effects on Blood Pressure Are Dependent on Mineral Intake: Analysis of NHANES III and IV Data. Presented at the High Blood Pressure Research Council 57th Annual Conference, September 25, 2003, Washington, D.C.

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Increased Calcium Consumption = Decreased Blood Pressure & Pulse

The March/April 2003 issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension published findings obtained from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) that increased calcium consumption is associated with a reduction in the age-related increase in systolic blood pressure and pulse. Systolic blood pressure rises with age in most individuals living in industrialized societies, while diastolic pressure tends to decrease after the sixth decade of life.

NHANES III enrolled 39,695 participants from which the researchers selected 17,030 individuals age 20 and older for the current study. Blood pressure and other measurements were obtained for all participants. Dietary information was obtained from a 24 hour recall questionnaire which enabled the researchers to calculate calcium intake as well as other nutrients that could affect blood pressure, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Systolic blood pressure was an average of 5.7 mm HG higher and diastolic blood pressure 3.4 mm HG for every ten years of age, however diastolic blood pressure declines at a rate of 2 mm HG for every ten years of age after the age of 50. High calcium intake, defined as greater than 1200 milligrams per day, was found to be inversely associated with the increase of systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure that occurs with age. Calcium intake was also associated with a reduced increase in diastolic blood pressure up to the age of 50.

The authors predict that "If the calcium intake of the general population were to increase to above 1200 milligrams daily, the incidence of isolated systolic hypertension in the elderly might be decreased." 

Source: Hajjar IM et al, "Dietary calcium lowers the age-related rise in blood pressure in the United States: The NHANES III survey," J Clin Hypertens vol 5 no 2, March/April 2003.

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Coenzyme Q10 Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Glycemic Control in Diabetics

In the November 2002 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Royal Perth Hospital, in Perth, Western Australia, demonstrated that a daily regimen of Coenzyme Q10 lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure and improved glycemic control in subjects with type 2 diabetes who were dyslipidemic (defined as an elevation in serum triglycerides or a high total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio), and who had blood pressure in the high-normal range.

Participants included 61 men and 19 women aged 31 to 75, who were randomized to receive 100 milligrams coenzyme Q10 twice per day, 200 milligrams of the lipid-lowering drug fenofibrate, both substances or a placebo, for twelve weeks. Blood pressure was measured and blood samples collected at the beginning and conclusion of the study. The subjects' blood was measured for cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, glucose, coenzyme Q10 levels and glycated hemoglobin, a measure of long-term glycemic control. In addition, plasma F2-isoprostane levels were determined in order to assess oxidative stress.

While fenofibrate did not affect blood pressure or glycemic control, coenzyme Q10 was found to significantly decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as reduce glycated hemoglobin indicating improved glycemic control, while not changing fasting plasma glucose and insulin concentrations. Although coenzyme Q10 has reduced LDL oxidation in vitro, the lack of reduction of F2-isoprostane in the group receiving the nutrient led the researchers to suggest that the improvements noted in this study were not due to a reduction in oxidative stress. However, the authors note that F2-isoprostanes are only one marker of oxidative stress, and that if the effects of coenzyme Q10 are specific at the cellular level, a reduction in oxidative stress could occur without changing F2-isoprostane concentrations.

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Grape Seed Extract Lowers Blood Pressure

In a study presented during the 2002 annual American Physiological Society meeting, researchers from the University of Alabama in Birmingham reported that an extract of grape seed given to spontaneously hypertensive female rats whose ovaries had been removed caused a reduction in blood pressure. This blood pressure reduction was comparable to that of plant estrogens or estradiol, one of the hormones provided with hormone replacement therapy.

Blood pressure often rises after menopause in women presumably due to the decline in estrogens, the principle hormones made by the ovaries. Postmenopausal women have frequently used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to control hypertension and other unwanted menopausal effects, but the use of HRT therapy has recently been found to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events and reproductive system cancers.

Previous research by the investigators uncovered a similar antihypertensive benefit from phytoestrogens derived from soy. In the current study, the researchers used three-week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats and surgically removed their ovaries to mimic menopause. The rats were provided with phytoestrogen-free diets containing 1 percent or 8 percent sodium chloride. Half of the rats received the addition of grape seed extract to their food. Predictably, the high (8 percent) salt diets greatly elevated blood pressure, however, the rats on this group who received grape seed extract experienced a much lower elevation. Rats on the 1 percent salt diet did not appear to be affected by grape seed extract. Like the estrogenic compounds, the extract did not produce any change in heart rate, showing a specific effect on blood pressure.

The findings suggest that a different mechanism than estrogen receptor activation may be the cause of the benefits of estrogen therapy in postmenopausal hypertension. The researchers believe that the polyphenols from grape seed extract may be useful as an antihypertensive for women who are postmenopausal.

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