High blood pressure is dangerous in part because it rarely causes symptoms at first but is a risk factor for many other conditions. According to data gathered as part of the Framingham Heart Study, people who have high blood pressure are at significantly increased risk of developing dangerous conditions related to high blood pressure. In this study, for every 10 mm Hg increase in systolic pressure, there was a doubling of the risk of having a heart attack or stroke or of having kidney failure (Kannel WB 2003; Klag MJ et al 2003; Wolf PA 2003).
Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is classified as conditionally essential, since the body can produce it from other amino acids, such as cysteine, based on the body’s needs. A study was performed on 10 young adults who were borderline hypertensive and took 6 g/day of taurine. Their average systolic blood pressure decreased 9 mm Hg (Fujita T et al 1987). Researchers speculate that taurine may modulate an overactive sympathetic nervous system (Militante JD et al 2002).
Soy is a high-protein, low-fat food derived from soybean. Protein comprises nearly half its calories, and carbohydrate and fat roughly equal the other half. Soy holds only a trace amount of saturated fat and no cholesterol. In search of a natural approach to treating high blood pressure, a recent study addressed the effects of increased dietary soy protein on blood pressure. Researchers confirmed previous studies that showed higher intake of vegetable protein lowers blood pressure (He J et al 2005).
Data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study found higher intake of soy was associated with lower blood pressure (Yang G et al 2005). The mechanism responsible for the reduction of blood pressure is not well understood. One plausible explanation concludes that soy protein (or an overall increase in protein) may lead to dietary arginine-induced increases in nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and improve endothelial function (Cuevas AM et al 2004).
Many patients who have high blood pressure use garlic to lower high blood pressure or help prevent fatty plaque buildup in the arteries and blockages that can lead to heart attack or stroke. The sulfur compounds, especially allicin, are the active ingredients in garlic (Tattelman E 2005). More medical research is underway to assess the usefulness of garlic to prevent heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure (Edwards QT et al 2005).
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