Is Coffee Bad For My Blood Pressure And Heart?

One of the most frequently asked questions about blood pressure

I hear people say that coffee is no good for my blood pressure and my heart. Is it all bad?

No, it’s not all bad. We often focus on the fact that coffee contains caffeine, a bitter-tasting white crystalline substance that scientists describe as the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world.

Caffeine’s ability to stimulate our brain and thus our central nervous system means that, in excess, it can leave us feeling jittery and makes it hard to relax and sleep well.

Four to six caffeinated drinks a day is generally regarded as a “moderate” and safe consumption, although pregnant women should stick with 200mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee a day).

As far as blood pressure is concerned, caffeine does lead to increases in people who don’t have it regularly, but tolerance develops within several days and research suggests that when consumed in coffee (as opposed to caffeine tablets), its impact on raising blood pressure is comparable to the effect of walking up stairs.

Evidence that coffee causes the heart to race after drinking is, experts say, “anecdotal and tenuous”. As for heart disease, if you avoid coffee that hasn’t been filtered or boiled then it does not increase “bad” cholesterol.

It is increasingly recognised that coffee is more than just a sum of its caffeine, milk and sugar load, providing us with hundreds of compounds including a host of antioxidants such as cholorgenic acid and lignans.

Research suggests that having between one and three cups of coffee daily may help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, and that this may in some part be down to these supernutrients.

A new analysis of 42,000 people in Europe showed that people drinking four or more cups of coffee daily were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with those sticking with just one. The apparent protective effects may again be down to cholorogenic acid, which in experiments seems to help to inhibit glucose absorption and even out insulin levels. The mineral magnesium, found in coffee, may also play a protective role.These potentially protective effects appear to have nothing to do with the caffeine in coffee because decaf drinkers in the study had an even lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

As scientists from Harvard University inform us, human and animal studies suggest a hint of protection against Alzheimer’s. Early evidence suggests that coffee may fight against beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that could cause Alzheimer’s.

Healthy diet could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s,

A healthy diet of oily fish, fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists.

The study found that old people with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins C, D, E and B suffered from less brain shrinkage and had higher scores on mental agility tests than those with low levels of the nutrients.

Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in oily fish, such as mackerel, while B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are primarily found in fruits and vegetables.

People whose blood had higher levels of trans fats, found mainly in cakes and fried foods, had the worst cognitive scores.

However, the nutrients did not seem to be effective when found in high concentrations in isolation, suggesting that simply taking fish oil capsules or taking vitamin C tablets may be less effective at protecting against cognitive decline than eating a balanced diet.

The brain typically shrinks by about 10 per cent each decade, even in healthy older people, and the rate of brain atrophy is known to be more rapid in those who go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

Scientists said the findings suggested that in the future dietary therapy could be used to delay the onset and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, although they added that further clinical trials would be needed to provide conclusive evidence.

There are currently 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia but few treatments have been shown to be effective at preventing or slowing the rate of decline.

Professor Gene Bowman, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, who led the study, said: “If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, these are dietary patterns that you might want to seriously consider.”

The study, published today in the journal Neurology, involved 104 people with an average age of 87 and no diagnosed memory or thinking problems. Blood tests were used to determine the levels of various nutrients present in the blood of each participant. All of the participants also took tests of their memory and thinking skills and 42 had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.

The study suggested that a significant amount of the variation in both brain volume and thinking and memory scores could be explained by differences in nutrient. For the thinking and memory scores, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 17 per cent of the variation in the scores. Other factors such as age, number of years of education and high blood pressure accounted for 46 per cent of the variation.

For brain volume, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 37 per cent of the variation.

“These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” Professor Bowman said.

A second study, also published today in Neurology, showed that the rate of brain shrinkage is a useful marker for whether a person will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The ability to predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease is a key target for dementia research, as it would allow new treatments to be trialled early, when they are more likely to be effective. These findings add weight to existing evidence that Alzheimer’s begins long before symptoms appear, although it’s important to note that the study did not assess who went on to develop the disease.”

 

Related – Vascular dementia

Are you sure your headache isn’t a heart attack?

Cardiovascular disease has long been considered a men’s health issue – but more women are dying from it.

Contibutors: Pat MuncherYahoo Contributor and Ed TusoxDigital Journal

I began to get a headache like I had never had before,” says 37-year-old Priscilla Chandro. “It was intense, but I didn’t know what caused it. I went to the kitchen to get paracetamol, but on the way I felt so hot I had to lie on the sofa. Once the wave of heat had passed, I got up again. But then I passed out and woke up staring at the kitchen ceiling.”

The symptoms of heart attacks in women are often much subtler and very different from those in men.

What Chandro was suffering from was in fact a massive heart attack. She did not believe it had happened to her. But neither did the paramedics who had rushed to her home, who said she had flu. Nor did a GP who initially examined her. It wasn’t just that Chandro, a working mother of a four-year-old daughter, from Ottershaw, Surrey, had a normally healthy lifestyle and no family history of cardiovascular disease. The symptoms of heart attacks in women are often much subtler and very different from those in men. And we still somehow don’t believe that women get heart disease, even though it kills three times more women than breast cancer does.

Finally scientists and doctors are accepting that women’s coronary problems are physically different from the male model upon which medical therapies are traditionally based. This opens a path to new treatments and preventive tactics. And not before time. For although coronary heart disease is considered a problem for overweight middle-aged businessmen, it is in fact the most common cause of death for British women.

Emotional stress may play a role in some forms of women’s heart disease. Last week it was reported that research by the University of Arkansas showed that shock or emotional trauma can damage the heart. It also stated that women are seven and a half times more likely to suffer “broken-heart syndrome”, or stress cardiomyopathy, a condition where intense emotional or physical stress can cause rapid and severe heart-muscle weakness, than men.

Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, director of the institute of gender in Berlin, says that high psychological stress plays the key role in 90 per cent of cases of a particular form of heart failure in women. “We are only just becoming aware of how much women are in danger from this syndrome,” she says.

Chandro says: “A heart attack was the last thing I could ever have imagined. It seemed like a cruel joke; not something that happened to women, especially young ones. I felt extremely frightened. People just don’t believe that it could have happened to me.”

But it frequently does, according to Jane Flint, a consultant cardiologist who chairs the British Cardiovascular Society’s joint working group for women’s heart health. “In 2010, 77,000 men died from cardiovascular disease. The same year, 80,000 women died from it,” she says. “A third of deaths in men are from this, and a third of deaths in women are, too.”

One reason for the female death rate is that women tend to wait longer than men before calling 999 after first experiencing heart attack symptoms. Experts speculate that this might be because women are reluctant to cause a fuss, or they don’t want to be embarrassed if it turns out that their situation isn’t serious.

The difference in symptoms also plays a role. Many men’s heart attacks fit with the picture of chest pain that spreads to the shoulder, arms, back, teeth or jaw, along with shortness of breath. Women’s signs can be much more vague and insidious.

A study of 500 female cardiac patients by the National Institute of Nursing Research reports that the most common symptoms that women experienced in the month before a heart attack are unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, indigestion and anxiety. Forty per cent had no chest pain, even during an attack. Other research says that women are more likely to experience achiness or tightness across the chest during a heart attack, along with symptoms such as pain in the jaw, nausea, sweatiness, breathlessness and feeling light-headed.

But it is not only the symptoms that are different. The physical causes of women’s heart attacks can differ considerably too, and therefore require different treatment. Last week, leading cardiologists gathered at the University of Mississippi to explore these disparities at an international conference. High on the agenda was research suggesting that while men commonly suffer blockages, specifically in the arteries supplying blood to the heart, women’s heart disease is often spread more widely in their bodies. Dangerous fatty clots accumulate more evenly inside women’s major arteries and in smaller blood vessels.

Because women’s arteries are generally smaller than men’s they are more easily blocked. And the widespread nature of potential blockages makes it harder to diagnose the disease in a woman, and makes it more deadly if she has a heart attack, the conference was told by C. Noel Bairey Merz, the director of the Women’s Heart Center in Los Angeles. His figures show that more than a third of women will die within a year of their first heart attack, compared with a quarter of men. Women are twice as likely as men to have a second heart attack within six years of their first, he adds, and women are twice as likely as men to die after bypass surgery.

In addition, medical research often fails to differentiate between men and women in tests of drug therapies. Dr Flint says: “We know that heart drugs can have different effects according to your gender. But only half of the drug trials conducted into heart drugs since 2006 showed results by gender. And of the people tested, two thirds were men.”

Dr Flint says that statin drugs offer a clear example of the importance of gender-specific research. “Until recently, it was thought that women did not benefit from taking statins the way that men do. Thankfully, research shows otherwise now, though that is little comfort to women who have missed out. And even now, only about a third as many women are given statins as men. The message has not yet fully got out.”

Other drugs can have totally different effects on the sexes. Only in 2009 was it discovered that a daily aspirin regimen for men helps to protect against heart attacks, but offers no protection for women. (On the other hand, that same aspirin will protect women against strokes but has no such power for men).

Lifestyle plays a part too. The British Heart Foundation reports that about a third of women in England and Scotland have high blood pressure. More than half of all women in the UK are overweight or obese and less than a third in the UK do enough exercise to protect their hearts. It is recommended that these women begin to take regular readings with a blood pressure monitor to see if it is getting to high

For Priscilla Chandro, the idea of emotional stress playing a part in her heart attack feels particularly true. “I am convinced that my heart attack was brought on by all the intense emotional stress I had put myself under. After it happened, I decided to deal with all the sadness and anger that I had always carried around with me, to change my attitude and beliefs.”

Chandro was extremely lucky to have survived her massive coronary, given the late diagnosis. If more of us learn to watch for the subtler signs of a female heart attack, many more women may get that second chance of life, too.

The symptoms for women

The most common symptoms that women experience in the month before a heart attack are, say researchers:
Unusual fatigue, which was noted in 70 per cent of the women monitored
Sleep disturbance, which affected nearly half of them
Shortness of breath
Indigestion
A heightened sense of anxiety

During a heart attack, further research shows that women may feel:

Tightness across the chest (although 40 per cent of women don’t feel any chest pain)
Pain in the jaw
Nausea
Sweatiness
Breathlessness
Light-headedness

Source – The Times

Foods and Supplements that Claim to Lower Blood Pressure

Myths – Foods and Supplements that Claim to Lower Blood Pressure

We are delighted to publish the following article from Becky Mackay who is an online writer, with a keen interest in health and lifestyle. For more top tips on high blood pressure and weight loss visit her Twitter page @FreshHealth11

Some dieticians claim that certain supplements and vitamins are highly effective at lowering high blood pressure. However, although many are able to reduce levels of hypertension, they may not lower them sufficiently enough to make any real change. They also only tend to work on mild to moderate cases of high blood pressures, which is 140/60 for mild hypertension and 140/180 for moderate hypertension. If you suffer from extreme levels of hypertension it is highly recommended that you visit your doctor and consider using a blood pressure monitor at home to take regular readings.

Below are some of the foods and supplements often recommended for those looking to lower their blood pressure.

Do or don’t they lower high blood pressure?

Garlic

Garlic has also been known help lower high blood pressure and to help with other disorders of the cardiovascular system, including atherosclerosis and high cholesterol.

A recent study carried out by the University of Adelaide, Australia, claimed that members of the study into the effects of garlic upon high blood pressure found a significant decrease in the blood pressure levels, which was as high as the decrease provided by certain medication. However, many aspects of the study were overblown and the medication the results were compared to were actually inactive placebo pills rather than more effective medication, such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers.

CoQ 10

Coenzyme Q10 is an enzyme that provides energy for the body. You couldn’t function without CoQ10 and the body manufacturers it throughout life, although this production decreases with age. Some studies show that people who are deficient in CoQ10 are more prone to high blood pressure and also found that CoQ10 supplementation could lower blood pressure. However, the effects weren’t experiences until a month to three months of supplementation. CoQ10 lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and its antioxidant properties help the vascular system. Some of the studies carried out, also found that only a slight improvement was found. One such study asked 79 patients with managed chronic congestive heart failure to take 100mg of CoQ10 or a placebo. After the study was completed, only a mild improvement was found in the quality of life of those taking CoQ10 in comparison to those taking the placebo.

Vitamin C

Studies have also shown that people with mild blood pressure often have a mild lowering of their blood pressure when they take vitamin C supplementation. Some biologists believe this happens because vitamin C removes lead from the body, a toxin that may be responsible for high blood pressure. However, some studies aren’t clear as to whether vitamin C effectively helps with hypertension or cardiovascular disease and so it is always best to take Vitamin C, either through food or supplements, alongside your high blood pressure medication.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is used in the conversion of food into fuel and is involved in the body’s metabolism process. Research has also shown that Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, can lower blood pressure as it reduces high levels of homocysteine in the blood, which is implicated in the cause of heart disease. In one study, 20 people with hypertension were given 5 mg a day of B6 per 2.2 pounds of their body weight for a month. After the trial their blood pressure was shown to go down. However, doctors and medical researchers are still unclear about how Vitamin B6 actually affects heart conditions and how it reduces homocysteine. It is still important to make Vitamin B6 part of your diet, but it is recommended that you only take supplements if your doctor advises you to do so. Natural sources of Vitamin B6 include chickpeas, potatoes, fish, onions and spinach.

Therefore it is recommended that you stick to whatever your doctor has prescribed, rather than taking garlic as a complete treatment method.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Many studies have shown that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure, whether through fish oil supplements or flaxseed oil. Some physicians believe that flaxseed oil is more effective and more cost effective in reducing hypertension than fish oil. Physicians also believe that regularly eating fatty fish like salmon and herring also helps lower high blood pressure.

17 studies upon fish oil and high blood pressure came to the conclusion that 3 grams of fish oil every day could lower blood pressure. However, a quantity of fish oil that high should only become part of your diet at the recommendation of your doctor.

In conclusion, the above supplements do seem to have some effect on high blood pressure, however the actual effectiveness of such dietary changes should be seen as a supplementation rather than an overall treatment and specific, prescribed medication is still the best treatment for high blood pressure.
Resources:
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/938.html
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-QuickFacts/
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/934.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/300.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/omega-3/HB00087/METHOD=print

Cutting down salt in cooking

Raymond Blanc is on a crusade to cut the amount of salt in British cooking – and his fellow chefs are in the firing line.

Taken from The Times health section 11 October 2011

Raymond Blanc tells a story about cooking in his first restaurant in Oxford in the 1970s. He prepared a meal for two businessmen and watched as the plates were set before them. They instantly picked up the salt cellars and began to liberally season their food.

“A nightmare! They murdered my food,” says Blanc, shuddering at the memory of his early days. “Food would come back: ‘Not salty enough, not sugary enough. More salt, more sugar.’ I had big problems to start with.”

Today, as one of our most revered chefs and the possessor of two Michelin stars at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, his country house hotel in Oxfordshire, the Frenchman doesn’t suffer so many complaints about what he serves up. But he does worry about the amount of salt consumed in his adopted country.

To reduce blood pressure levels, the Food Standards Agency has been working with food manufacturers and supermarkets on incremental steps towards smaller amounts of salt in processed food. But not everyone is signed up to the crusade. Last month independent butchers and retailers complained that the British fry-up was under threat from the “salt police” because they couldn’t make tasty sausages and bacon with less salt. A survey found that one loaf of bread in every four sold in high street stores contained as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps.

In addition to the effect it has on blood pressure a  high-salt diet is linked to conditions including osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease and obesity, and may exacerbate the symptoms of asthma and diabetes.

Blanc has long advocated a low-salt diet. In his home city of Besançon, his mother, who first gave him a love of cooking, used “very little” salt. In his book Blanc Vite, published 13 years ago, the third of his ten commandments after “use only the freshest food, organic where possible” and “eat a varied diet” is: “Use as little sugar and salt as possible in cooking, particularly in your children’s meals. Let them grow up with more refined palates than us — and free from our health problems.”

Now he is targeting his message at fellow chefs. On a recent evening at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir, he was to be found giving a salt masterclass to 40 chefs from Charlton House, a catering company with contracts that include the Garden Café at Buckingham Palace, Mansion House and the dining rooms of City law firms.

First he makes us perform the salt test that he gives all his chefs. He has taken eight 1-litre bottles of water and added varying amounts of salt to each. We have to guess how many grams of salt they contain. At first everyone is guessing wildly, but after tasting a couple of bottles, most begin to get the hang of it. Blanc uses the test to see how salt-sensitive his chefs are.

He doles out portions of Zabaione, the Italian dessert, and asks the chefs to season the dish before he tastes them. Some are complimented. Others are too salty. With one he rocks back on his heels and cries out: “Ooooh! Too salty!” He tells the chef that such a dish would not be served in his restaurant. “You can do nothing with that. All that work, all that waste of money, waste of time.”

Later I ask the chefs what they got from the session and they are full of praise for the “inspirational” Blanc and some say they will be thinking about the salt they put in food. “I’m criminal, I know it,” jokes Richard Haye, the chef at Ofcom in London. “I know that I over-season. I’m going to try to reduce the salt.” Others, when I ask if they’ll do the same, don’t seem to have grasped the key message. “I season to taste,” says one and another agrees with him.

Blanc’s point is that it is their sense of taste that they should be re-examining. He believes that decades of too much salt have left people with a poor idea of what food should taste like. Blanc says that the message about excess salt is getting through “but for it to become part of universal consciousness takes time. You cannot just topsy-turvy 50 years of ignorance.”

For too long salt has been seen as the easy way to add flavour. “Putting in more salt is a very simple way to correct otherwise very poor ingredients.” He sees the use of salt as a consequence of industrialised food production and becomes excited as he rages against our food culture. “We created a nightmare. We have lost our craft and created a society that is devouring the world. Grab. Eat. Chew. Digest. Defecate. Retailers didn’t care, processors didn’t care, consumers didn’t care, chefs didn’t care. It is only now that we are connecting with our food values.”

Our dependence on salt is “insidious — 90 per cent of food is produced by intensive farming, which uses every pesticide. A processor comes in and has a huge armoury: colourings, agents of texture, he has salt, he has sugar, he has fat to make that food taste palatable.”

So what can we do? He says that while salt is a catalyst of taste there are other ways of adding flavour. “Herbs are a wonderful way to put a bit of oomph to your flavour. You have got hundreds of flavours within the herb sector. Salt is not the only catalyst, there are so many others that beg to be used instead. Bitter is a catalyst, sour is a catalyst, acid is a catalyst, vinegar. We rely too much on salt. The first thing I ask my young people is to be curious.”

When cooking he advises people to be cautious at first about seasoning with salt simply because once it is in the dish it cannot be removed. “You can always add salt.” He also suggests that cooks must learn how much salt they are putting in a dish when they add the traditional pinch. “A pinch of fine salt may be two grams. A pinch of rock salt is only half a gram. I measure everything by a pinch. My pinch is 1 gram. I can do it a thousand times it will be one gram. I teach my young chefs to measure one gram.” The rest of us need to experiment.

Blanc impresses upon the chefs at the masterclass how much salt is naturally in food. A kilo of organic chicken can contain a gram of salt. He makes his chicken stock without adding salt. We taste a bowl of stock before it is reduced and it tastes slightly salty. Then once it is reduced it is much saltier.

The problem is that we are used to cheap, salty food and in hard economic times it is difficult to tell people that they should be buying better ingredients. “We don’t spend money on quality food, we spend on fast food and obviously fast food relies heavily on salt, on bad fats and sugar.” (Don’t get him started on sugar.) Also, while we talk a good game about cooking better food, we don’t necessarily do so. “We all say ‘the nation must cook’, but the nation cooks less and less and relies more and more on fast food. Cooking takes effort. In England we talk well about food but we need to cook more.” He is optimistic that the British will learn to cook and eat better. “We will reconnect more with our food culture and nutrition.”

As the visiting chefs are fed canapés and taken on tours of the kitchen after their lesson, well-dressed couples are arriving for dinner at the restaurant. Will they find salt cellars on the table? “Of course!” says Blanc. “I am not going to be a tyrant. At the cookery school, we educate people. In the restaurant it is about celebration. I am here to give joy.”

Time to go against the grain

The daily salt intake of most people in the UK is about 9g (nine small pinches) — 3g more than the reommended amount. But this figure has been falling for a decade.

Three quarters of the salt in our diets comes from processed food, and our reduced intake is due largely to food manufacturers and supermarkets reacting to pressure from lobby groups and the Department of Health to include less salt in their products.

Health professionals argue that there is strong evidence linking high salt intake with high blood pressure, which in turn is a major cause of heart attacks and heart failure, the most common causes of death and illness in the developed world. A high-salt diet is also linked to conditions including osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease and obesity, and may exacerbate the symptoms of asthma and diabetes.

If you are trying to cut back on salt, eat fewer foods such as bacon, ham, cheese, prawns, salami, olives and stock cubes. Foods low in salt include fresh fish and meat, eggs, milk, pulses, ricotta and Emmenthal cheeses, and porridge.