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Vegetarian blood pressure: A vegan diet may lower blood pressure, study finds

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Vegetarians have low blood pressure, a new study finds, and the switch to a non-meat diet may even prove an effective means to combat high blood pressure concerns.

According to Reuters on Tuesday, as carried by Fox News, researcher Yoko Yokoyama from the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan authored the study, which took a fresh look at close to 40 past heart study findings.

“If a diet change can prevent blood pressure problems or can reduce blood pressure, it would give hope to many people,” Yokoyama said. “However, in order to make healthful food choices, people need guidance from scientific studies. Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive.”

The total analysis of the studies took into account the health and diet routines of close to 22,000 individuals. Research found that those who consistently stuck with a vegetarian diet had an average systolic blood pressure that was about 7 mm Hg lower, and a diastolic blood pressure that was 5 mm Hg lower, than blood pressure readings of those who regularly ate meat and meat products.

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a fraction. The top number (systolic), which is the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats; in other words, when the heart muscle contracts. The lower number (diastolic), measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats, in other words, the “rest” cycle between beats.

Readings at or a little under 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic are considered normal. Clinical hypertension pressure starts at 140/90.

According to the American Heart Association, 76.4 million U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension. One of the main risk factors is diet.

“To care for our bodies, we all need good nutrition from a variety of food sources. A diet that's high in calories, fats and sugars and low in essential nutrients contributes directly to poor health as well as to obesity,” writes the AHA.

Yokoyama said that most treatments for high blood pressure involve prescription medications, which may have multiple side effects on their own. Not so with a vegan diet.

“Unlike drugs, there is no cost to a diet adjustment of this type, and all the ‘side effects’ of a plant-based diet are desirable – weight loss, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control, among others,” Yokoyama said. “But there is more. Plant-based foods are often low in sodium and are rich in potassium, and potassium lowers blood pressure.”

Would you consider a switch to a vegan diet? Leave your comments below.

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