Adults who consume a high-protein diet may be at a lower risk for developing high blood pressure (HBP). The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), found participants consuming the highest amount of protein (an average of 100 g protein/day) had a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure compared to the lowest intake level.
One of three U.S. adults has hypertension and 78.6 million are clinically obese, a risk factor for the development of hypertension. Because of the strain that it puts on blood vessel walls, HBP is one of the most common risk factors of stroke and an accelerator of multiple forms of heart disease, especially when paired with excess body weight.
The researchers analyzed protein intakes of healthy participants from the Framingham Offspring Study and followed them for development of high blood pressure over an 11-year period. They found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from animal or plant sources, had statistically significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up. In general, these beneficial effects were evident for both overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) and normal weight (BMI <25 kg/m2) individuals. They also found that consuming more dietary protein also was associated with lower long-term risks for HBP. When the diet also was characterized by higher intakes of fiber, higher protein intakes led to 40?60 percent reductions in risk of HBP.
“These results provide no evidence to suggest that individuals concerned about the development of HBP should avoid dietary protein. Rather, protein intake may play a role in the long-term prevention of HBP,” explained corresponding author Lynn Moore, associate professor of medicine at BUSM. “This growing body of research on the vascular benefits of protein, including this study, suggest we need to revisit optimal protein intake for optimal heart health,” she added.
High blood pressure, also known as “the silent killer,” is an epidemic in our nation. It typically has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realize they have it, which is why we must all get it checked regularly. Over time, unaddressed elevated blood pressure can have disastrous consequences including stroke, heart attack, blindness and kidney failure.
Every 39 seconds, someone in this country dies of cardiovascular disease. And despite the fact that the largest risk factor in these deaths – high blood pressure – is both preventable and reversible, as many as 67 million American adults live with high blood pressure, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alarmingly, 47 percent of those with a diagnosis have not gotten their blood pressure under control, according to government research. And many of those afflicted don’t adhere to recommended medication regimens because of the drugs’ side effects.
Medications are highly effective in bringing down blood pressure, when taken properly. But what you eat (and drink) also has a dramatic impact. The government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has been proven as effective as prescription medication in reducing blood pressure.
Many imagine that a blood-pressure-lowering diet involves bland, unseasoned foods and deprivation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Although reducing your sodium intake is an important step in lowering blood pressure, what you add to your diet is as important as what you take out.
Here are 5 surprising and delicious foods from my Blood Pressure DOWN action plan:
Bananas The most popular fruit in the United States, bananas are delectable, portable, inexpensive and filled with fiber. Each banana also has at least 450 milligrams of potassium, nature’s most powerful blood-pressure-lowering medicine.
To bring your blood pressure down, you need to go beyond slashing salt and ingest more potassium as well. Abundant scientific evidence has proven that a shortage of this electrolyte plays a major role in the onset of high blood pressure and that restricting potassium intake can cause a blood pressure spike even among people with no previous concerns. A low potassium intake also ups your odds of suffering a stroke.
In practice, potassium offsets the harmful effects of sodium. To lower your blood pressure through dietary means, you need to shift your body’s balance of sodium and potassium by bringing your sodium intake to under 1500 milligrams a day while raising your potassium intake to about 4700 milligrams – the average American adult consumes only about half this much today. (Diabetics, people with chronic kidney disease and those taking a blood thinner, like warfarin, should check with their doctor before increasing their potassium intake.) Potassium is also a natural diuretic – so the more you eat, the more sodium and water you’ll excrete through urine.
Avocado Another potassium powerhouse, the avocado, contains 975 milligrams of the mineral. It also delivers a variety of other heart-healthy vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and monounsaturated fat. Try a ripe avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise or butter and you’ll be doing your heart a service by replacing artery-clogging fats with a super-buttery, creamy and tasty spread. Or try my simple guacamole recipe – packed with blood-pressure-lowering nutrients. Serve it as a dip with low-salt bagel or pita chips, or as an accompaniment to quesadillas or tacos.
This work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study (NHLBI/NIH Contract N01-HC-25195), the Boston University School of Medicine, and a grant from the American Egg Board/US Department of Agriculture.
Boston University Medical Center