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Did you know that an estimated 9 out of 10 adults who live to the age of 80 will develop it at some point in their lives?

Or that 1 out of every 6 people worldwide have high blood pressure? That’s approximately 1 billion people–a number that is expected to rapidly increase over the next ten years…

Despite the fact that hypertension is a growing epidemic, the truth is that too few people know about this “silent killer.” And even fewer still know how to prevent (or reverse) it.

Awareness is rising thanks to events like the World Hypertension Day.

There are ways to prevent hypertension–and one of the best approaches is simply to eat a whole food plant-based diet that is devoid of or very low in added SOS (sugar, oil, salt).

But first, let’s talk about World Hypertension Day…

What Is World Hypertension Day?

Unlike most holidays, World Hypertension Day is not really a day to celebrate.

Instead, its whole reason for being is to shine a spotlight on the growing problem of hypertension around the world and to educate people about the dangers associated with high blood pressure.

Originally created in 2005 by the World Hypertension League, World Hypertension Day occurs annually on May 17th.

Each year, the theme of the day changes slightly but from 2013-2018, the theme remains the same – “Know Your Numbers,” i.e. keep score of your blood pressure numbers and understand what those numbers actually mean.

So…What Exactly Is Hypertension?

In a nutshell, hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, which is considered a major risk factor for any type of cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as it flows through them is elevated. While your blood pressure is naturally different at various times of the day, when it stays high most of the time, it is a sign of a serious medical condition.

How do you know if you might be at risk for having hypertension? Well, that is where ‘knowing your numbers’ comes into play – two numbers in particular:

  • Your Systolic Blood Pressure. It is the maximum force of blood that builds up against artery walls when your heart contracts.
  • Your Diastolic Blood Pressure. It is the minimum level of blood pressure in the arteries between heart contractions.

If your systolic blood pressure is about 140 mmHg and/or your diastolic blood pressure is at or above 90 mmHg, you are classified as having hypertension, or high blood pressure.

The Hidden Problem

One of the biggest challenges with hypertension is that many people do not realize they even have it. In fact, it is estimated that over half of those affected by hypertension either do not know their blood pressure is too high or what to do to make it better.

To that end, it is important that your blood pressure is tested regularly to ensure that your numbers are within a healthful range. And if you discover that you suffer from hypertension, you should talk with your doctor about treatment options (remember that diet plays a big role in it!).

The Whole Food Diet Solution

Treating the problem after the fact is one thing, but learning how to lower your blood pressure naturally and preventing the problem from happening in the future is always a much better alternative.

And one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure starts with a plant-based diet.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Avoiding animal fats and all oils make your blood less viscous – or thick – and allows it to flow through your arteries much easier, which in turn makes your heart not have to work as hard to keep everything moving.
  • Since plants do not contain cholesterol, eating a plant-based diet inevitably lowers cholesterol levels, which help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, too.
  • Most plants have very little saturated fat and will not increase your cholesterol and blood pressure in the way animal foods do.
  • Replacing animal products with fruits and veggies decreases your risk of overweight and obesity, which are associated with increased risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
  • Whole fruits and veggies also have lower sodium levels than animal-based and other manufactured products. As we will cover in our next blog post, sodium intake greatly contributes to high blood pressure.

It is clear that choosing to eat a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet is one of the best approaches to prevent (or reverse) hypertension.

And a Recipe to Try

In honor of World Hypertension Day, we would like to share a very special recipe for Low-Sodium Black Bean and Corn Chowder. This dish is a true hypertension fighter – a beautiful and delicious way to prevent high blood pressure and be heart-healthy.

In the end, remember that it is up to you to improve your own health.

Even if you have hypertension today, you can always start making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle and reap the benefits for a long time to come.

It is never too late to start!

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.