New research published in the journal Neurology found an alarming correlation between borderline elevations in blood pressure, and the incidence of stroke. They found that patients in the upper end of prehypertension had a 55% increased risk of having a cerebral vascular accident (stoke) than those without prehypertension. This finding is a cause for concern, since the standard treatment for pre-hypertension is generally a ‘watch and wait‘ approach.
Hypertension is multi-factorial condition whereby blood is driven through the vascular system at pressures greater than metabolic demand. It usually remains without any symptoms for a long time, but the cumulative effect on the body often has a devastating result. High blood pressure has been long known to be a risk factor for many conditions: atherosclerosis, heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and stroke, to name a few. High blood pressure can arise from an underlying condition, but in 95% of cases it is a direct result of lifestyle factors.
Blood pressure can be classified in to the following categories:
- Normal: less than 120 / 80
- Low Prehypertension: 120-129 / 81-84
- Elevated Prehypertension: 130-139 / 85-89
- Hypertension: greater than 140 / 90
In this study, the elevated prehypertension group was found to be at a much higher risk of stroke than previously believed. The findings certainly indicate that the criteria for management of prehypertension may require updating, since treatment often does not begin until patients move in to the hypertensive range. Medicating patients earlier may be an option, but there is plenty of evidence showing that prehypertension can be reduced through lifestyle changes, and adopting a more healthy way of life.
What can you do if you are have prehypertension and want to reduce your risk of stroke, without medications? Altering your way of life can be a very difficult and frustrating transition, but with the proper guidance and motivation, it can be done successfully. Try to incorporate these blood pressure reducing changes in to your life:
- Find a naturopathic doctor to help monitor and treat your condition.
- Cut back on alcohol, drug, and tobacco use.
- Incorporate at least 30 minutes of low impact exercise per day.
- Consider dietary changes: Drastically eliminate intake of salt. Increase intake of fruit (especially berries), vegetables, and whole grains. Cut back on red meat intake, soda, and white breads.
- Drink more water!
- Find positive outlets for stress reduction.
- Consider dietary supplements.
“Presence of baseline prehypertension and risk of incident stroke: A meta-analysis”; M. Lee, J.L. Saver, B. Chang, K.-H. Chang, Q. Hao, and B. Ovbiagele; Neurology published online before print 28 September 2011; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182315234