For Many People, a Sizable Fraction of Age-Related Hypertension is Self-Inflicted

Secondary aging is, more or less, that part of age-related decline that is driven by lifestyle choices and environmental factors. It adds to the primary aging caused by internal processes that we can presently do comparatively little to address. The mechanisms involved are similar and overlapping. Chronic inflammation, for example, will grow in later life even given an exemplary approach to personal health, and contributes to the progress of all of the common age-related diseases. That is primary aging. But let yourself become overweight and take up a smoking habit, and greater levels of chronic inflammation will result. That is secondary aging.

The publicity materials here help to make the case that for much of the population, a sizable fraction of age-related hypertension – increases in blood pressure – is driven by unhealthy lifestyle choices. These are the usual suspects: a poor diet, excess fat tissue, lack of exercise. While one can’t defeat aging and its varied manifestations by living well, actively making things worse seems like a poor choice in an age of accelerating progress in biotechnology, with rejuvenation therapies somewhere on the horizon. Whether or not one lives an extra few years, or experiences an extra decade of comparatively good health, is no longer moot in the long run. Some people will live for long enough to benefit from the coming era of progressively improving rejuvenation therapies, and some people won’t. It makes sense to employ the sensible, everyday health practices that cost little and adjust the odds in your favor.

The program noted here is essentially a form of calorie restriction and/or calorie management, packaged up and prettified. That approach tends to work for people who are overweight, and will improve most health metrics as weight is lost, particularly those associated with metabolic disease deriving from excess fat and too little exercise. If this group and others manage to find ways to sell a lower calorie diet to people who wouldn’t otherwise choose to benefit, then more power to them. It is a pity that we live in a world in which it doesn’t work to comprehensively demonstrate, again and again, over decades, that fewer calories are better. Adoption requires the packaging and prettifying.

Researchers have demonstrated that a program aimed at helping people modify lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise is as effective as medication at reducing blood pressure. Participants in the study saw their blood pressure drop 19 points, on average, after taking part in the program for just 14 days. Other studies have shown that a blood pressure reduction of this magnitude can cut a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke in half. “By adapting selected lifestyle health principles, half of the people in our study achieved normal blood pressure within two weeks while avoiding the side effects and costs associated with blood pressure medications. The Newstart Lifestyle program works quickly, is inexpensive and uses a palatable diet that allows for moderate amounts of salt and healthy fats from nuts, olives, avocado and certain vegetable oils.”

The reduction in blood pressure accomplished by the program was equivalent to what can be achieved using three half-dose standard medications for blood pressure. In addition, 93 percent of the participants were able to either reduce the dose (24 percent) or eliminate their blood pressure medications (69 percent). People participating in the Newstart Lifestyle program follow a vegan diet, walk outside daily, drink substantial quantities of water, get adequate daily sleep and participate in optional spiritual activities. The program’s vegan diet consists of foods, such as legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, soymilk, almond milk and whole-grain breads.

For the study, the researchers evaluated data from 117 people with high blood pressure who had participated in the Newstart Lifestyle program for 14 days. At the end of the program, half of the participants achieved a systolic blood pressure below the recommended 120 mmHg. The program was effective at lowering blood pressure in varying types of individuals, including otherwise healthy men and women and people with diabetes or who were obese and those with high cholesterol levels. Next, the researchers plan to test the program in more people over a longer time period to better understand its long-term effects and biological basis.

Link: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-06/n2-alh053118.php

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