How can your diet maintain healthy blood pressure? This week’s Nutrition News features several studies that uncover the potential of certain nutrients in extending life.

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How to lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death around the world. As such, managing our blood pressure is hugely important to maintain good heart health; this recent video and accompanying article from Healthline outlines some of the steps we can take to lower high blood pressure.

Besides exercise and reducing excess stress, there are a number of dietary changes that can be made to lower blood pressure. Weight management is very important as being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, too much sodium and sugar can also have a negative effect. One way of reducing the effects of sodium, in addition to reducing intake, is to increase potassium intake, which lessens the effects of sodium in our bodies and eases tension in the blood vessels.

Healthline also suggests the consumption of dark chocolate as a way to reduce blood pressure. It is thought that the flavonoids, which are the antioxidants present in dark chocolate, could be a contributing factor to lowering blood pressure by acting as an anti-inflammatory and dilating the blood vessels.

Some herbs are also thought to hold blood pressure lowering properties. These include black bean (Castanospermum australe), cat’s claw (Uncaria rhynchophylla), celery juice (Apium graveolens), Chinese hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida), ginger root, giant dodder (Cuscuta reflexa), Indian plantago (blond psyllium), maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster), river lily (Crinum glaucum), roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), sesame oil (Sesamum indicum), tomato extract (Lycopersicon esculentum), tea (Camellia sinensis), especially green tea and oolong tea, and umbrella tree bark (Musanga cecropioides), although further research is needed to clarify these reports.

There are a number of studies, according to the article, that suggest that garlic extract could be an effective way of lowering blood pressure due to its main active compound allicin.

While food or supplements alone cannot lower blood pressure or treat heart conditions, maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle lessens the risk significantly.

The link between magnesium and the immune system

Magnesium is a vital mineral that supports a range of functions within the body including the nervous system, the maintenance of normal bones and teeth, and normal psychological function, among others. A recent study reported by Medical News Today might suggest that we need to add immune system support to that list of health benefits as it evaluates the mineral’s effects against infections.

This study comes as the FDA announces inconsistent and inconclusive scientific evidence that suggests that diets with adequate magnesium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), a condition associated with many factors. This suggests that research into the many, as yet unconfirmed, health benefits of magnesium is ongoing.

This most recent study from scientists in Switzerland suggests that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, can only eliminate cancerous or infected cells in the presence of magnesium. This further supports previous studies that have found that cancer can spread faster in low-magnesium diets, suggesting that magnesium supports a healthy immune system.

While the research is very exciting, it is important to remember that no supplement or specific nutrient can cure cancer and that further research is needed to investigate the role of certain nutrient deficiencies on the immune system.

Study shows link between the Mediterranean diet and lower risk of mortality

Further research has been published that supports the hypothesis of a link between the Mediterranean diet, that being a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, and living longer, healthy lives.

The research, published in Science Daily, is based on the InCHIANTI project, which has been carried out over a 20 year period involving 642 participants over the age of 65. From this data, the researchers established an index of dietary biomarkers based on food groups that made up the Mediterranean diet and assessed their association with mortality.

During the 20 year period, 425 deaths occurred, including 139 as a result of cardiovascular disease and 89 as a result of cancer-related causes. The researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet score using the biomarkers was inversely associated with all causes of death.

While the findings add further weight to the body of research in favour of the Mediterranean diet, further research is needed to establish exactly what it is about the Mediterranean diet that lowers the risk of mortality.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.