The causes of mortality worldwide are mainly due to several diseases – malignant, infectious, chronic respiratory diseases, and as a cause that stands out especially cardiovascular diseases.
One of the major risk factors for poor heart health is HYPERTENSION or high blood pressure.
7.6 million lives are lost annually from high blood pressure.
A condition that must be taken seriously!
There are several myths associated with this problem. They suggest that this is not very serious situation. However, it is of particular importance to emphasize that long-term impaired blood pressure has the potential to kill.
Studies show that high blood pressure is a major culprit in more than half of all heart attacks and strokes, followed by kidney disease, vascular dementia and more. In many countries, high blood pressure is a third risk factor for all diseases, right after smoking and poor nutrition.
In fact, suffice it to say that for doctors in Europe and America, blood pressure rises of “only” 10 units make a significant difference and can change definitions of the type of hypertension and even therapeutic modalities for its treatment!
Lifestyle has a key impact on blood pressure
Although pharmacological therapy has an important place in the treatment of problems with high blood pressure, still the main focus in the treatment, but also the prevention of this problem should be a healthy lifestyle.
After all, solving the problem of hypertension is the best example that the so-called lifestyle medicine “works”.
In addition, we will focus on the diet, more specifically on two groups of foods that have been scientifically proven to have a truly remarkable effect on impaired blood pressure.
It is about beets and garlic, and their close plant “relatives”.
What do scientific studies say about the link between garlic, beets and blood pressure?
There are indeed numerous studies that indicate a strong positive effect of the mentioned vegetables in terms of lowering blood pressure. In addition, we will list only 3, and then we will explain the mechanisms by which these vegetables can help us with pressure problems.
A study published in 2015 in the journal Hypertension found that beetroot juice could significantly lower blood pressure. The research divided the participants into two groups. In the first, subjects drank a glass of plain beetroot juice every day for 4 weeks or 1 month. The second group was control. Blood pressure in the first group was reduced by an average of 7.7 / 2.5 units.
According to a study / experiment by the famous Dr. Andy Webb from King’s College London, garlic and beets can significantly lower blood pressure, and the same can be concluded for watermelon, but to a lesser extent. During the experiment, participants consumed: 3 cloves of fresh garlic in the first week, 2 large pieces of watermelon in the second week and 2 pieces of fresh / cooked beets in the third week.
Volunteers measured their blood pressure daily, twice a day. In the morning and in the evening, three times, after which they “extracted” the average value. In this way it was possible to conclude which food would make the biggest difference in terms of pressure. The results were as follows: beets “lowered” the pressure by 5 units, garlic by 4.5, while watermelon by 4.
This data can be roughly “translated” in reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack by as much as 10%!
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that beets in any form (whether juice or boiled) could effectively lower blood pressure but also reduce inflammation (chronic inflammation). However, beet juice has shown the most potent effect.
How can these vegetables work to reduce stress?
The body has several own mechanisms for controlling blood pressure, and the so-called cardiovascular center in the brain (medulla oblongata), which receives stimuli from various receptors through blood vessels.
Among the pressure control mechanisms are the hormonal mechanisms of the kidneys, as well as the nitric oxide created by the so-called endothelial cells of our circulatory system (blood vessels).
One of the main active components of beets in terms of blood pressure are nitrates – components present in the leaves and roots of the plant. When we eat beets, our beneficial intestinal flora (bacteria) in the digestive system, “converts” the mentioned nitrate into nitric oxide – a component that contributes to dilation, ie dilation of blood vessels, which leads to a decrease in blood pressure. In fact, most well-known drugs for dilating blood vessels and improving blood flow work on this principle, such as nitroglycerin and Viagra.
It is known that nitrates can be dangerous to human health, but only in the presence of amino acids and high temperatures, which form dangerous chemicals called nitrosamines – an example in meat products. Plants rich in nitrates do not have a strong concentration of amino acids, nor are they subjected to such heat treatments. In addition, they contain high concentrations of vitamin C, which makes the formation of the mentioned nitrosamines difficult.
The active ingredient in garlic is allicin – a powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial agent. It is released during the chopping and crushing of garlic cloves. It is thought to affect the kidneys, altering hormone levels associated with regulating blood pressure – causing blood vessels to dilate.
It should be noted that this phytochemical also appears in other vegetables, such as spring onions, onions, leeks, chives, etc.
Finally, the active ingredient in watermelon is L-citrulline. It is an amino acid that acts to increase the level of nitric oxide. We have seen before why this is so important in terms of blood pressure.
How to maximize the retention of the mentioned components in the vegetables we eat?
Beetroot is not the only vegetable rich in nitrates. In fact, arugula is considered to be 4 times richer. These include:
- The spinach
The mixture of these fresh vegetables makes a particularly tasty antihypertensive salad. Of course, pay attention to the salt content.
To make the most of the nitrate / antioxidant content of vegetables:
- Eat vegetables fresh or stewed. Nitrates are sensitive to heat and soluble in water, so digestion itself reduces their concentration in meals. Canning beets with vinegar also has a negative effect on nitrate concentrations.
- If you boil the beets, do not peel them afterwards.
- If the mentioned vegetables are not your “favorite”, prepare smoothies from them.
- Make vegetable soups or stews.
- Use the water in which the mentioned vegetables were cooked.
- Eat the garlic immediately after chopping,
- Always chop the garlic.
As a short conclusion
Of course, nitrate foods, garlic, and watermelon are just one important aspect of your diet for people with high blood pressure. In addition, it is important to mention that a complete healthy diet is also only part of the life changes required by the problem of stress.