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June 13, 2015

By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

If, like me, you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you're
past the day when warnings can help you. You already know how
harmful hypertension can be to your health --- raises your risk for
heart disease and stroke and for men,
erectile dysfunction --- and
you're  more than ready to make a change. How to make that change is
the problem.

My blood pressure readings were pretty high. I had been going to a
long stressful winter after a nasty spat with a loved one, the weather
was so dreary and my internal weather was so cloudy I could barely
rouse myself to get out of the house on some days.  Those
commitments I had made to get to the gym went by the wayside.

By the time I got to my annual physical in early March, my numbers
were scary --180 over 90. Almost ready for the emergency room. My
doctor wanted to put me on blood pressure meds right away. The
problem with meds is that once you start taking them, you tend to stay
on them. Over time, the pills pile up.  Pretty soon, you're just one of
the millions of Americans who are over-medicated and well on your
way to pill dependency.

I made a deal with her. If I couldn't turn my blood pressure around in
30 days, I would take the meds.

Before I get to what I did, I want to share my results....drum of
this morning, my blood pressure readings are 128 over 80.  Yes, I am
taking a bow!

Here, in no particular order of importance, are the changes I made
which turned my blood pressure around in 30 days. Well, in the interest
of full disclosure, it actually took me from March 1 to June 13, today, to
see the complete turnaround. But I saw significant drops in 30 days

Go Cold Turkey on the Salt.  Salt is the number one dietary
contributor to hypertension. The American Heart Association
recommends no more than 1500 milligrams of salt per day. Americans
average about 3 times that much. Hence, we have high blood pressure
--some one-third of men and women over the age of 18, according to
the Centers for Disease Control. Among African Americans, the
percentage is even higher at 42%.

Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to Your Diet.  It's a little known fact but
olive oil is almost as effective as blood control medications in lowering
hypertension. A 2008 study from the University of the Balearic Islands
found that two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day lowered
blood pressure by 17 points in two weeks. Though this was an animal
study, similar results have been found in human studies.

For example, a 1996 study from the Hospital Universitario Virgen del
Rocio in Sevilla, Spain found that olive oil lowers blood pressure in
women with untreated hypertension after just 4 weeks. By the way,
this study compared olive oil to sunflower oil and found that while both
of these monunsaturated oils changed the lipid profile favorably, only
olive oil significantly lowers blood pressure.

A 2009 study from Instituto de la Grasa, Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Cientificas, Sevilla, Spain discovered that extra virgin
olive oil lowers high blood pressure in diabetic patients.

In 2005, a large international conference convened to summarize the
health benefits of olive oil. That conference, hosted by doctors from the
Lipid and Atherosclerosis Unit, Reina Sofia University Hospital, Cordoba,
Spain, confirmed that olive oil is one of the key features  ---indeed
perhaps "the" key feature --- of the Mediterranean diet which produces
favorable cardiovascular outcomes. The conference noted that olive oil
benefits the smooth lining of your arteries ("endothelial function") as
well as lowering inflammation and oxidative stress.

For my diet, I added two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Extra
virgin, cold-pressed olive oil is best for your health. It has a slightly
green color. Never keep olive oil near heat or in sun. Store it in a cool,
dark place such as in your cabinets.

I added one table spoon to my salad dressings and the other table
spoon over my break fast eggs. I tried to add the oil after the eggs
were cooked because there is some debate in the scientific community
on whether cooking destroys the health benefits of olive oil. Some
mornings, I cooked in half and then poured the other half of the table
spoon after the eggs were cooked. I used medium heat to cook my
eggs to minimize as much as possible the oxidation of the oil that
occurs when it is exposed to high heat.

At any rate, some of you may want to just take an olive oil supplement,
so I have added a link to one on this page also.

Make the Best Cheap Investment in Your Health and get a Home
Blood Pressure Monitor

I know one thing about health. Nothing gets better unless it is

Many people rely on their occasional visits to the doctor to learn their
blood pressure levels. This is not optimal for two reasons. The first
reason is that, if you have high blood pressure, you need to know on a
daily basis at least, how your blood pressure is doing. Is it higher after
you interact with certain people? Is it higher if you sleep in a certain
position? Do certain TV shows drive it up? Do other shows drive it
down?  Without a home blood pressure machine, you can't know for
sure how your body is reacting to the external stimuli that may be
contributing to your high blood pressure.

The second reason you need a home monitor is that you also need to
know   --- for  certain --- whether the changes you are making to your
diet are working.  

The blood pressure monitor which I use is the Omron which is
approved both by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US
and the National Health Service of the UK.

You can use any machine you like but only those machines which are
recommend for use by doctors such as the Omron can be trusted to
give you accurate readings.

I use the Omron Intellisence M2 which is an automatic machine which I
found on Amazon. To use it, I simply pull it up over my upper arm,
press the start button and the machine does the rest.  I bought the one
with the large upper arm cuff because my upper arms are a bit heavy.

Walk.  I set aside 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week to walk. I like to
walk without an agenda or a time clock. I find that this type of walking
leaves me feeling the most relaxed. Some people like to "power walk".
I'm not one of them.  I like to start out strolling. Then, after I get
going, I naturally pick up speed. That suits my body and temperament
more than arm-pumping power-walking.  I found that walking just 30
minutes a day, on most days of the week, eventually led me to walking
every day.   

The scientific proof that walking lowers blood pressure? In 2000, a
study was conducted by researchers from Wakayama Medical College in

The researchers divided men with an average age of 47 into 3 groups.

One group consisted of men with hypertension, averaging systolic
blood pressure (upper number) of 140 and/or diastolic pressure
(bottom number) greater than 90. This group was required to walk at
least 10,000 steps per day for 12 weeks.  

Another group, also hypertensive, did not walk and a third group with
normal blood pressure also did not walk.

After 12 weeks, the group of men with high blood pressure which
walked at least 10,000 steps a day saw the their systolic blood pressure
(the top number) drop from an average of 149.3 to 139.1, a difference
of over 10 points.   Their diastolic blood pressure (bottom number)
went from an average of 98.5 to 90.1.  

The actual average number of steps the men walked who successfully
lowered their blood pressure was 13,850.

Of course, having a pedometer helps. Here again, I took the path of
least resistance and just ordered one on Amazon. Walmart and Kmart
also have models which work pretty well.

Turn Down the Noise.  Noise pollution is a lesser-known contributor
to high blood pressure. But that's changing. In 2003, a study from Dr.
Stephen Stansfield of Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry
observed that noise heard while you sleep increases your heart rate
and blood pressure.

If you are exposed to loud noise during your sleep, your body tries to
adapt.  How much noise disturbs your sleep depends on the individual
because some people are more sensitive to noise than others.

But above a certain level --about 85 to 90 decibels  ---adaptation is
impossible and the noise prevents restful sleep.  
The level of 85 to 90
decibels is pretty loud
-- about as loud as traffic.  To compare, normal
conversation occurs at around 60 to 65 decibels
and a rock concert is
about 100 decibels.  But whatever your particular noise level threshold
is, once you get above it,
your blood pressure begins to rise.

If you live in a city where completely blocking out the noise is
impossible or if you are exposed to noise in your home --- hint, that
snoring significant other --- then do your health a favor and  invest in a
good pair of ear plugs.

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