Washington, May 15 (Reuters): So now all of a sudden you no longer have healthy blood pressure under new US guidelines released today. Better hit the pavement and the salad bar, experts advise.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute added 46 million Americans to the list of people who should worry about their blood pressure by defining a level of 120/80 as “pre-hypertension”, although people do not need to take drugs until their level reaches 140/90.
So what can people do who now find themselves in this “pre-hypertension” borderland of blood pressure'
The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has made some recommendations.
One study found that exercise can act like a drug on the arteries, keeping them supple and free of inflammation and thus preventing the hardening and swelling that mark heart disease.
Experts are not sure why eating fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure and prevents heart disease, but say it may have to do with their high content of vitamins and minerals. A plant-based diet also reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes and stroke.
“Even little changes in blood pressure are important,” Dr Aram Chobanian, a member of the committee and dean of the Boston University medical school, said.
“Let’s do something early on that will prevent it, and that doesn’t mean medication,” Chobanian said.
The researchers said people who suddenly fall into the pre-hypertension category are likely to feel a little disbelief and it may be difficult to persuade them to make changes.
“Sure, it is going to be hard to do,” said Dr Edward Roccella of the NHLBI. Education will be key, he said.
Chobanian noted that in the US, people have a 90 per cent chance of developing high blood pressure, especially after the age of 50. But this does not happen in other countries, especially where people exercise more and eat less salt.
Roccella said the group supported the American Public Health Association’s call to lower the overall levels of salt in the US food supply by 5 per cent a year over the next 10 years.
“By slowly reducing sodium in the food supply, Americans can begin to adjust their tastes for salt,” he said.
Britain’s food watchdog today issued its first warning to parents to cut the amount of salt their children eat, to reduce their risk of serious illnesses linked to high blood pressure later in life.
The Food Standards Agency said children were eating too much salt and set daily limits for the first time. It urged parents to check salt content in ready meals, snacks and home cooking.
“There are important health benefits from reducing salt intake,” FSA chair Sir John Krebs said in a statement. “We have set new guidelines for children’s salt intake on the basis of the best scientific evidence.”
The advice was based on a new report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, an independent body which advises the government on health.
The FSA said manufacturers should cut the amount of salt added to processed food, which the FSA says makes up three-quarters of the salt in people’s diets. “We are urging all food manufacturers and retailers to set targets for reductions in levels of salt in all processed foods,” Krebs said.
The FSA said cutting salt intake reduced the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and strokes.
It set recommended daily salt levels at one gram for babies up to one-year-old, two grams for children aged between one and three, and three grams for those aged four to six. The figure rises to six grams for 11-to-14-year-olds. The Salt Manufacturers’ Association said scientific evidence on salt intake was contradictory.