kris ulland

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Studies show that total life expectancy is five years longer in people with blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg compared to people at 140/90 mmHg and above. Heart attacks and strokes are experience by people with higher blood pressure.

Each time your heart beats, it generates systolic pressure that enables oxygenated blood to circulate throughout your body. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures: systolic pressure is the pressure when your heart pushes blood out and diastolic pressure is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.

Normal aging usually results in elevation of systolic blood pressure that damages arteries and delicate capillaries. Excess systolic blood pressure causes or contributes to:

  • coronary artery disease
  • aortic valve stenosis
  • cerebral vascular disease
  • kidney failure
  • retinopathy and other eye disorders
  • dementia

Blood pressure is increasing worldwide due to ever-growing numbers of overweight and obese individuals.

The Framingham Heart Study, along with other important large studies, such as the Seven Countries Study and the Nurses’ Health Study, also showed that healthy diet, not being overweight or obese, and regular exercise are all important in maintaining good health, and that there are differences in cardiovascular risk between men and women.  Along with other important studies about smoking, such as the British Doctors Study, it also confirmed that cigarette smoking is a highly significant factor in the development of heart disease, leading in many cases to angina pectoris, myocardial infarction (MI), and coronary death.

Prior to Framingham, there were no strong and reliable data about heart attack and stroke prevention. it is estimated that the findings from the study have averted hundreds of millions of cardiovascular events.

Elevated blood pressure is a major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality. According to a 2002 World Health Organization report, suboptimal blood pressure (over 115mmHg)  was estimated to be responsible for 62% of cerebrovascular disease and 49% of coronary heart disease.

Note that older people with pre-existing vascular disease or circulatory deficits need higher systolic pressure (130-140mmHg) to ensure adequate circulation to their brains and kidneys.

Hypertension in early life damages capillary beds that then require higher-than-optimal systolic pressure to obtain adequate blood flow to critical organs. Even when higher systolic pressure is needed, it inflicts more vascular damage.

Studies conclude that blood pressure control should be initiated as soon as age 40 for a longer life expectancy. Since the Framingham study, there have been massive changes in conventional guidelines. Studies presented at the american heart Association’s annual meeting in November 2019 suggests that additional years of life can be added with aggressive blood pressure control. According to the president of the American Heart Association:

“…the analysis suggests that a 50-year-old person with systolic pressure under 120mmHg could expect to live almost 3 years longer.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly 1,300 Americans die each day with high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause.

By making these 10 lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

There are nutrients like garlic, melatonin, and fish oil that can lower systolic pressure a few points but most hypertensives need to either lose weight and/or take drugs. Unfortunately, many of these drugs have side effects.

Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

  1. Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight if you’re overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.  Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches.  Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches. These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
  2. Regular physical activity. 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mmHg if you have high blood pressure. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.  Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. If you are not active now, talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
  3. Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables with less saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg if you have high blood pressure. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.  Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
  4. Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mmHg if you have high blood pressure. The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake of 1,500 mg a day or less is ideal for most adults.  Salt has been linked to hypertension but only a subset of  people are generally salt-sensitive. Sodium is important for overall health, but our sodium levels needs to be in proportion to our levels of other important minerals – mainly potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy. Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.  Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food. Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
  5. Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation – generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men – you can potentially lower your blood pressure by about 4 mmHg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.  But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.  Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
  6. Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
  7. The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure up to 10mmHg in people who rarely consume it. But for people who drink coffee regularly, it may have little or no effect on their blood pressure.
  8. Reduce your stress.  Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
  9. Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is an herb with a distinct citrusy flavor and aroma. Its scientific name is Cymbopogon citratus and it belongs to the grass family of Poaceae. It is a tall, perennial grass native to India and tropical regions of Asia and is also known as barbed wire grass or fever grass.

Lemongrass, also called citronella, is a tall, stalky plant. It’s a common ingredient in Thai cooking and bug repellent. Lemongrass essential oil is used in aromatherapy to freshen the air, reduce stress, and lift your mood. It may even help in balancing cholesterol levels, managing type 2 diabetes, promoting healthy skin, combating fatigue, anxiety, and bad body odor.

Lemongrass is a rich source of flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which contain antioxidants. It’s also an effective antibacterial and antifungal agent that contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The antioxidant activity of the lemongrass may boost the immune system and protects against antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Lemongrass contains quercetin, a flavonoid known for having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Quercetin reduces inflammation, which inhibits cancer cell growth and prevents heart disease.

Lemongrass also contains phenolic compounds such as luteolin, glycosides, kaempferol, elemicin, catechol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. The main component of this fragrant herb is lemonal or citral, which has antifungal and anti-microbial qualities.

Lemongrass is used in Africa as a treatment for coronary heart disease. One study conducted a seven-day treatment of lemongrass extract on rats, which resulted in elevated cholesterol levels decreasing significantly.

In a 2012 observational study, 72 male volunteers were given either lemongrass tea or green tea to drink. Those who drank the lemongrass tea experienced a moderate drop in systolic blood pressure and a mild increase in diastolic blood pressure. They also had a significantly lower heart rate.

One ounce of lemongrass contains:

  • Calories: 30
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Lemongrass also contains iron, essential component of hemoglobin, a vital substance that transfers oxygen from your lungs to your blood. The USDA FoodData Central shows that lemongrass is a source of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B-vitamins, folate, and vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and iron.

Research published in 2011 in Food and Chemical Toxicology journal revealed that the essential oils in lemongrass possess anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-hypercholesterolemic properties that support healthy cholesterol levels.

One animal study has also shown that lemongrass may assist in sustaining healthy levels of triglycerides and reducing LDL. This may help in preventing the accumulation of lipids in the blood vessels and promoting an unobstructed flow of blood in the arteries, thereby preventing various cardiac disorders such as atherosclerosis.

The citral in lemongrass is also thought to have potent anticancer abilities against some cancer cell lines. Several components of lemongrass help fight cancer. This occurs either by causing cell death directly or boosting your immune system so that your body is better able to fight-off cancer on its own.

According to a 2003 animal study, lemongrass may help in cleansing and flushing harmful toxic wastes from the body, as a result of its diuretic properties. Detoxification may help in the regulation of various organs of the body, including the liver and kidneys, while also possibly helping to lower the levels of uric acid. The possible diuretic effect of the herb helps in increasing the quantity and frequency of urination, which helps in maintaining digestive health and detoxifying the body.

Lemongrass tea may help treat oral infections and cavities, thanks to its antimicrobial properties. According to a 2012 in vitro study published by the National Institutes of Health, lemongrass essential oil showed antimicrobial abilities against Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the bacteria most responsible for tooth decay.

Studies have shown that lemongrass essential oil has potentially anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties which help in fighting the infections caused by pathogens such as Helicobacter pyloriand Escherichia coli. It is beneficial in reducing inflammation and gastrointestinal disorders; it may be helpful to consume to improve digestion and if you suffer from gastric ulcers, constipation, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach ache.

A 2012 study on rodents published by the National Institutes of Health showed that lemongrass may also be effective against gastric ulcers. The study found that the essential oil of lemongrass leaves can help protect the stomach lining against damage from aspirin and ethanol. Regular aspirin use is a common cause of gastric ulcers.

Lemongrass tea is considered to be helpful in calming muscles and nerves that may aid in promoting sleep. Research has shown that lemongrass tea has sedative properties, which can help in increasing the duration of sleep.

Lemongrass is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for its healing effects in treating cough and cold. Along with other beneficial components, vitamin C in it may help in providing relief from nasal blockages, flu, and other respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma.

Lemongrass is a febrifuge and is also known as the ‘fever grass’ due to its beneficial effects in lowering fever. The possible antipyretic and diaphoretic effect is extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine for curing fever by inducing sweating.

Lemongrass works as an antiseptic and is effective in treating infections such as ringworm, sores, Athlete’s Foot, scabies, and urinary tract infections (UTI) because of its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Studies have shown that the herb exerts healing effects on dermatological infections, such as yeast infections, by inhibiting the growth of pathogens. Another study provides supporting evidence that demonstrated the efficacy of lemongrass over thyme, patchouli, and cedarwood oil in the treatment of various diseases such as oral or vaginal candidiasis.

Lemongrass and several of its products such as oil are known to be effective against headaches and body aches. A 2018 study suggests that not only is the herbal oil effective against muscle pain and body ache of various kinds, it is also an alternative with lesser side effects as opposed to synthetic drugs. Another study also notes the effective use of lemongrass essential oil against rheumatism, muscle spasms, and cramps.

Lemongrass has been shown to have beneficial implications for managing type-2 diabetes. An animal study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2011 indicates that the citral present in the fragrant herb may help maintain optimum levels of insulin and improve the tolerance of glucose in the body.

Lemongrass has been treasured as a skin tonic and makes an effective cleanser for oily or acne-prone skin, due to its astringent and antiseptic qualities. It can help in strengthening the skin tissues and toning up the pores while also sterilizing them. Care should be taken while using lemongrass products, as the undiluted application might lead to dermal irritation in some cases.

Lemongrass is effective in providing relief from the condition of water retention or edema. It has a cleansing effect on lymphatic congestion and helps soothe the swelling.

In the world of natural health, lemongrass is a known diuretic. A diuretic makes you urinate more often, ridding your body of excess fluid and sodium. Diuretics are often prescribed if you have heart failure, liver failure, or edema.

Lemongrass consists of beneficial essential oils and compounds such as neroli, citronellol, myrcene, dipentene, geraniol, and methyl heptenone. The oil is extensively used in aromatherapy.

How to Buy

The flavorful part of lemongrass is the lower part of the stalks, and it is usually sold with the leaves and upper stalks removed. Look for lemongrass that is firm and pale yellow-green with a bit of a bulb at the end. The top of the stalk should look relatively fresh; they tend to dry out quickly so they may not look like they were just harvested but they shouldn’t be browned.

You can find loose lemongrass tea or lemongrass tea bags at most natural food stores or online.

Herbs and herbal teas aren’t well-regulated, although some pre-packaged herbal teas must follow the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s labeling laws. To make sure you get a high-quality, pure product, choose organic lemongrass that’s not treated with synthetic pesticides.

 

How to Store

Store lemongrass loosely wrapped in the fridge for up to several weeks. Or, wrap it well and freeze it. If you’re going to freeze it, consider chopping or mincing it and then freezing it. An ice cube tray is useful for this. Freeze until hard and then transfer to a sealable plastic bag for longer-term storage.

How to Cook

To make lemongrass tea:

  1. Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons fresh or dried lemongrass
  2. Steep for at least five minutes
  3. Strain the tea
  4. Enjoy hot or add ice cubes for iced lemongrass tea

Lemongrass is most often used in 1- to 2-inch pieces in soups, stews, and teas. Just add the trimmed pieces of lemongrass stalk and leave them in the soup or stew until it imparts as much flavor as you want. Remove the pieces before serving since they tend to be woody.

Lemongrass can also be minced and added to stir-fries. Use only the bottom few inches for mincing and remove the tough, woody outer layer of the stalk, since that it the most tender part of the lemongrass stalk.

Whichever way you use it, know that the longer you cook lemongrass the more intense its flavor becomes. For a flavor that is as light, add lemongrass towards the end of cooking.

One Pot Vegan Tom Yum Soup

Minimalist Baker

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil (if avoiding oil, sub twice the amount in water)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut in half then halved lengthwise  (you can tie up with food-grade twine so it can be easily removed before serving)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 2 Thai red chili peppers or 1 serrano pepper minced
  • cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 Tbsp green curry paste
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 medium limes – about 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 2-3 Tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar or maple syrup

For serving:

  • Zucchini noodles, kelp noodles, or rice noodles
  • Baked Peanut Tofu
  • Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce
  • Fresh Cilantro

 

Instructions

  • Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add oil or water.
  • Add lemongrass  and onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should become translucent and soft and slightly browned.
  • Add fresh ginger, chili peppers, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, and curry paste and stir. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, a few slices of lime peel, diced (drained) tomatoes, coconut aminos, and coconut sugar and stir to combine. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the lime juice and stir. Simmer for a few more minutes. Then taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lime for acidity, coconut sugar for sweetness, coconut aminos for saltiness, or coconut milk for creaminess.
  • Remove lemongrass and lime peel before serving using a slotted spoon or fork.
  • Serve as is, or over zucchini noodles, kelp noodles, or cooked rice noodles. You could also serve it over white rice or brown rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
  • Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 4-5 days, or in the freezer up to 1 month. Reheat on the stovetop, covered, until warmed through.

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