Nearly half of adults in the United States have hypertension, according to the CDC. Most of these cases could be prevented and reversed with plant-based lifestyle medicine, and this evidence dates back almost a century ago. Discover the foods and lifestyle changes scientifically proven to help below.
In 2020, more than 670,000 deaths in the United States had hypertension as a primary or contributing cause.
Over 103 million people, or 46% of the US population 1.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease which causes 1 in 4 deaths in the US.
Christina Lascano PA, who has seen the power of lifestyle medicine to treat hypertension first-hand.
Rewa Chisholm is one of my personal patients and her story is one of how food is thy medicine. Rewa had been on up to 3 blood pressure medications for 20 years. Learn how she reversed her high blood pressure in 27 days! Learn how she decided a healthy life is a choice. Understand how she went from hating vegetables to inspiring me with her recipes. Rewa is full of life and I am thrilled to share her story.
Health and sustainability outcomes of vegetarian dietary patterns: a revisit of the EPIC-Oxford and the Adventist Health Study-2 cohorts
Vegetarians and vegans had up to a 60% reduced risk of high blood pressure compared to omnivores in the Adventist Health Studies and EPIC-Oxford study2
Lifestyle interventions to reduce raised blood pressure: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials
This study took the results from 105 separate trials involving 6805 participants, and found that lifestyle interventions could consistently and significantly lower blood pressure. Successful interventions including improving diet, doing aerobic exercise, restricting alcohol and sodium intake all lowered pressure in participants. Diet was the most effective with an average 5.0 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure 3.
Long-term low-calorie low-protein vegan diet and endurance exercise are associated with low cardiometabolic risk
This interesting study compared 3 groups: sedentary and plant-based, endurance running omnivores, and sedentary omnivores. Whilst the endurance athlete-omnivores had lower blood pressure than sedentary omnivores, people who were sedentary but ate plant-based actually had lower blood pressure than the endurance athletes! This was a small study, yet the results provide positive data for plant-based diets. If blood pressure is your ultimate goal, it’s possibly better to be sedentary and plant-based, than an omnivore who runs 48 miles a week! (at Mora we advocate for both a plant-based diet and exercise for maximum health benefits) 4.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is where you have sustained high blood pressure readings.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries, as it flows from the heart to the rest of the body.
Primary hypertension represents most cases, where there is no single cause of high blood pressure; it is mostly due to diet and lifestyle factors including lack of physical activity, too much salt in the diet, and too much alcohol.
Some people have secondary hypertension where the hypertension can be linked to a specific cause e.g. medication or a medical condition.
Hypertension is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because most people have no symptoms. However, those with more severe high blood pressure may experience symptoms such as headaches, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Sustained high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for death because of its far-reaching detrimental effects. It puts strain on the heart, and can damage blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure, as well as damage to other organ systems 5. It also increases the risk of conditions such as vascular dementia.
Your blood pressure reading is taken with a blood pressure monitor (sphygmomanometer).
When you have a blood pressure reading, you get two measurements:
The readings correlate to different stages of hypertension:
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recommend diet and lifestyle changes as the first treatment for high blood pressure.
The evidence shows us that diets rich in plant-foods and lower in animal foods should be the main treatment option for hypertension, combined with the other pillars of lifestyle medicine.
Several mechanisms are behind the pressure-lowering power of a plant-based diet. Firstly, those who eat plant-based diets have lower BMIs and a lower risk of obesity 6. This is mostly due to the high fiber and low fat content of the diet, reducing its overall energy density 7. Obesity is a known risk factor for high blood pressure.
They are also high in other compounds that regulate blood pressure:
Plant-based diets are low in compounds that increase blood pressure:
At Mora, we’ve seen people thrive on a plant-based diet and, with physician support, make an easy transition followed by incredible changes on blood pressure readings.
Choosing an active plant-based lifestyle can take the pressure off for good.
Are you living with hypertension and need help? Join us today to make a change.
1. Joshi, S., Ettinger, L. & Liebman, S. E. Plant-Based Diets and Hypertension. Am. J. Lifestyle Med. 14, 397–405 (2020).
2. Segovia-Siapco, G. & Sabaté, J. Health and sustainability outcomes of vegetarian dietary patterns: a revisit of the EPIC-Oxford and the Adventist Health Study-2 cohorts. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 72, 60–70 (2019).
3. Dickinson, H. O. et al. Lifestyle interventions to reduce raised blood pressure: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J. Hypertens. 24, 215–233 (2006).
4. Fontana, L., Meyer, T. E., Klein, S. & Holloszy, J. O. Long-Term Low-Calorie Low-Protein Vegan Diet and Endurance Exercise are Associated with Low Cardiometabolic Risk. Rejuvenation Res. 10, 225–234 (2007).
5. Appel, L. J. et al. Dietary Approaches to Prevent and Treat Hypertension: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Hypertension 47, 296–308 (2006).
6. Tonstad, S., Butler, T., Yan, R. & Fraser, G. E. Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 32, 791–796 (2009).
7. Kahleova, H. et al. Effect of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Body Weight, Insulin Sensitivity, Postprandial Metabolism, and Intramyocellular and Hepatocellular Lipid Levels in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw. Open 3, e2025454 (2020).
8. McDonough, A. A. & Nguyen, M. T. X. How does potassium supplementation lower blood pressure? Am. J. Physiol.-Ren. Physiol. 302, F1224–F1225 (2012).
9. Aburto, N. J. et al. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ 346, f1378–f1378 (2013).
10. Hoy, M. K. & Goldman, J. D. Potassium Intake of the U.S. Population, What We Eat In America, NHANES 2009–2010. FASEB J. 27, (2013).
11. Kapil, V., Khambata, R. S., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M. J. & Ahluwalia, A. Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients: A Randomized, Phase 2, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Hypertension 65, 320–327 (2015).
12. Scanlan, R. A. Formation and occurrence of nitrosamines in food. Cancer Res. 43, 2435s–2440s (1983).
13. Brown, J. L. N-Nitrosamines. Occup. Med. Phila. Pa 14, 839–848 (1999).
14. Tighe, P. et al. Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized controlled trial. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 92, 733–740 (2010).
15. Steffen, L. M. et al. Associations of plant food, dairy product, and meat intakes with 15-y incidence of elevated blood pressure in young black and white adults: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 82, 1169–1177 (2005).
16. Borgi, L. et al. Long-term intake of animal flesh and risk of developing hypertension in three prospective cohort studies. J. Hypertens. 33, 2231–2238 (2015).
17. Wang, L. et al. Dietary Fatty Acids and the Risk of Hypertension in Middle-Aged and Older Women. Hypertension 56, 598–604 (2010).
18. Sesso, H. D., Cook, N. R., Buring, J. E., Manson, J. E. & Gaziano, J. M. Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Hypertension in Women and Men. Hypertension 51, 1080–1087 (2008).
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