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March 14, 2016

A Sweet Way to Keep Your Blood Pressure Down

Women who ate this five or more times a week were far less likely to develop high blood pressure.

High blood pressure (HBP) is a sneaky disease. It can appear out of nowhere with no symptoms — until something serious like a stroke occurs. For women, the risk increases with family history, menopause and being overweight.

There is no cure for high blood presssure once it develops, but it can be managed with diet and exercise. And one food in particular seems to help reduce the risk of developing it, though no food is the magic bullet.

Eating several servings of milk and cheese each day also had beneficial effects on blood pressure, but not to the extent yogurt did.

Women who ate five or more servings of yogurt each week had the lowest risk of developing HBP when compared to women who rarely ate the fermented dairy product, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions.

Researchers looked at data from two large studies — the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study — and together they offered information on the eating habits of men and women between the ages of 25 and 75 years.

Over 74,000 new diagnoses of high blood pressure occurred during 18 to 30 years of follow-up. After researchers adjusted for other risk factors and diet, they concluded that women in the NHS study who consumed five or more servings of yogurt each week experienced roughly a 20 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who only ate it once a month. Men ate much less yogurt than women, so the effects of yogurt on blood pressure weren’t as strong.

When the researchers looked closer at the diets of both men and women in the study, they found that people who ate in a way that was similar to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet — more fruits, vegetables, other low-fat dairy foods, nuts and beans, and whole grains — and ate yogurt five or more times a week had a 31 percent lower risk of developing HBP than those who ate yogurt only once a week and didn't particularly follow the DASH diet. Eating several servings of milk and cheese each day also had beneficial effects on blood pressure, but not to the extent yogurt did.

“Our study shows that daily intake of dairy products, particularly yogurt, lowers the risk for developing high blood pressure, which is a key risk factor for the development of heart disease and stroke,” Justin Buendia, lead author of the study and a PhD candidate at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Information on the type of yogurt eaten by the people in the study was not collected. “It would be interesting to see if popular yogurt types, such as Greek yogurt, had different effects than regular yogurt,” Buendia added.

It’s never too early to start reducing your risk for high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Have yours checked regularly by a physician. Reduce your intake of salt, saturated fat and alcohol. If you are overweight, lose weight and get involved in regular physical activity. If you are already diagnosed with HBP, taking these steps can help you manage the disease.

The study is published in the journal Circulation.

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