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Vegetarian Diets And Blood Pressure
Sneha Kishore

Vegetarian Diets And Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?

It is the pressure of the blood in the circulating system.

What do the top and bottom numbers mean?

The top number is referred to as the systolic blood pressure. It is the pressure exerted to push blood through your arteries to the rest of your body.

The bottom number is referred to as the diastolic blood pressure. It is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This is the time when the heart fills with blood and gets oxygen.

What are normal values?

Normal blood pressure:

systolic < 120 mmHg

diastolic <80mmHg

Elevated blood pressure:

systolic 120-129 mmHg

diastolic <80 mmHg

Hypertension:

Stage 1: systolic 130-139 mmHg

diastolic 80-89 mmHg
Stage 2: systolic >/= 140mmHg

diastolic >/= 90 mmHg

If your readings fall in different stages, the higher value determines the stage.

Why is any of this important?

Well blood pressure and cardiovascular (heart) disease risk is continuous, consistent and independent of other risk factors.

There is a significant amount of evidence that supports the role of modifiable risk factors, including diet, body weight, physical activity, alcohol intake and the risk of developing hypertension.

Observational studies showed that consumption of a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower prevalence of hypertension and even more specific, lower mean systolic blood pressure (-6.9 mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (-4.7 mmHg) compared to omnivorous diets.

In clinical trials, consumption of a vegetarian diet was associated with a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of (-4.8 mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure of (-2.2 mmHg) compared with consumption of omnivorous diets.

According to Whelton et. Al, a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 5 mmHg would be expected to result in a 7%, 9%, 14% reduction in mortality due to all causes, coronary heart disease, and stroke respectively.

The DASH study was based on the observation that consumption of a vegetarian diet was associated with a reduced risk of hypertension and found that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, along with other dietary changes reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressures.

Specific diet and lifestyle factors can influence blood pressure. Obesity, excessive

sodium intake, excessive alcohol intake can all increase blood pressure and the risk of hypertension.

Potassium intake and physical activity decrease blood pressure. Additionally, unsaturated fat, protein, magnesium, dietary fiber may be associated with favorable blood pressure.

Observations for lower blood pressure in vegetarians are

  1. Typically, lower BMI and lower risk of obesity attributed to lower energy density of the diet from high fiber content and lower fat content
  2. Potassium is abundant in vegetarian diets. A meta-analysis of randomized control trials showed that potassium decreases blood pressure. Potassium likely works by increasing the filtration of the kidneys, decreasing sodium reabsorption, decreasing oxidative stress and platelet aggregation.
  3. Vegetarian diets may be lower in sodium
  4. Alcohol consumption may be lower in vegetarian population
  5. Often, proportionally lower in saturated fat and richer in polyunsaturated fat.
  6. Vegetable protein is shown to be inversely associated with blood pressure.

Vegetarian diets seem to lower blood pressure, which could be a useful nonpharmacological method of treating patients.

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