MANY studies have examined the effects of anti-hypertensive drug treatment on severe illness and death. Despite increasing evidence that diet, weight loss, stress management, quit smoking and exercise can help reduce blood pressure. There has never been a single long-term, randomized, controlled study to determine the effects of non-drug treatments of high blood pressure on severe illness or death.
The same is true for high cholesterol levels. Treating high blood pressure does significantly reduce the incidence of stroke although stroke are much less common than heart disease, but we do not know if non-drug approaches are equally effective since all of the studies use drugs.
Mild hypertension is very common. Some studies have found that up to 40 percent of people over age fifty have mild hypertension comparable to the percentage of people with elevated cholesterol
levels. Are we going to treat that many people with drugs? Would it not better to try other approaches that are less expensive, safer and with healthful way rather than harmful side effects? Is this really such a radical idea? As for me being in the wellness and fitness business for 34 years, I believe that we can theoretically prevent hypertension if we can change the environmental factors that internet with the genetic components to raise blood pressure. In the western country blood pressure levels tend to rise as people age. Likewise blood cholesterol levels tend to rise as people get older. In other countries though (including most of Asia and Africa) where people’s lifestyle and eating habits are moderate (less red meat, more fish and chicken), neither blood pressure nor blood cholesterol rise with age and the incidence of heart disease is also very low.
As with cholesterol-lowering drugs, most doctors prescribe anti-hypertensive drugs but usually not as a primary treatment. In patients with severe hypertension (usually if greater than 160/100), and those who already have evidence of end-organ
damage (for example those with enlarged heart, kidney disease or eye disease) experienced doctors will begin treating elevated blood pressure with medication while simultaneously recommending lifestyle changes especially correcting one’s eating habits. In my experience with hypertensive patients and those with heart-related disease, I always prescribe a fitness rehabilitation program combibed with proper nutrition. With their doctor’s advice, patients who
religiously follow the program often show significant reduction in blood pressure. If for whatever reason, patients with high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels do not wish to change their lifestyle or if their blood pressure remains high despite lifestyle changes, then I advise them to see their doctor and seek their advice on what to do.
Most people know that cigarettes are the major cause of lung cancer. Less well known is that smoking causes many more deaths from heart disease than from lung cancer in both men and women. It is easier to see why smoking leads to lung cancer since the smoke is inhaled into the lungs. Why does smoking help cause heart attacks? Scientists found out that the nicotine and other toxic substances in
tobacco are absorbed into the blood and injure the lining of the coronary arteries. Nicotine also causes the coronary arteries to construct and blood slots to form and lodge in the coronary arteries. Of course quitting smoking is not easy. Paradoxically, though most people I work with and train in fitness, find it easier to quit smoking if they also change their lifestyle in comprehensive ways. Most of my clients who have undergone a bypass operation and undergo my program for complete recovery ask me: “How do you expect me to change my diet, begin to
exercise and learn stress management techniques when it is hard enough to just quit smoking?”
Since many people smoke when they feel stressed, then it is easier to quit when they have
alternative ways of managing stress that are not
centered around smoking. Also, when a person makes comprehensive lifestyle changes and have
interest to recover faster they begin feeling so much better that the harmful effects of smoking become more apparent. So the craving and daily battle of not smoking become much easier.
Besides coronary artery blockages, what else
causes the heart to become starved for blood? Thirteen years ago I attended a seminar conducted by a famous heart surgeon about “Heart attack and recovery.” Even though I am not a cardiologist, I
became interested in attending the seminar because it is in line with my profession as a fitness coach. Some of my clients have undergone heart bypass operations and are in the recovery stage. The doctor demonstrated that the coronary arteries are not rigid, like lead pipes. The arteries are flexible and are lined with smooth muscle that can construct thus reducing coronary blood flow. This constriction of the artery is known as coronary artery spasm. When a coronary artery goes into spasm it can injure the lining of the artery leading to cholesterol deposit and plaque buildup. The spasm can injure the lining of the coronary artery so badly that bleeding occurs
into the wall of the vessel causing the wall of the artery to bulge into the artery thus obstructing blood flow through the artery.
Another important mechanism that can reduce blood flow to the heart is a thrombus or blood clot. Small blood clots can form and lodge inside a coronary artery thereby obstructing blood flow to the heart. In most people, these mechanism work in combination. That is if a coronary is already 70 percent clogged with plaque then even a small blood clot can lodge in the artery and reduce blood flow to the heart causing chest pain or block it completely leading to a heart attack. What a scary is it. At the end of the seminar, I asked the doctor: “How can we prevent the blood from clotting and the coronary
arteries from constricting? Why do the arteries go
into spasm and what activates the mechanism that causes coronary artery blockages to form?” His
answer is that lifestyle factors can activate all mechanism known to cause coronary heart disease and heart attacks. In other words, lifestyle choicest we make each day like what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much we exercise, and whether or not we abuse tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs can lead to heart disease.
With Christmas just around the corner, there are lots of parties to attend. High-fattening, sugary foods are everywhere. Enjoy the holiday season but always eat in moderation, rest well, and don’t forget to EXERCISE!