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ASK AN EXPERT: Readers ask questions about high blood pressure and battling illness

December 15, 2011

Tips to prevent
high blood pressure

What is a desirable blood pressure? Do you have any tips for staying in that range?

— Marty Nord

A desirable blood pressure should be in the range of 100-130/50-80 mm Hg. To keep your blood pressure optimal, follow these guidelines:

Stay active and exercise. An hour of walking at least three days a week can help you achieve an optimal weight and prevent high blood pressure for many people.

Limit your salt intake. Beware of “hidden salt” in many processed foods.

Take your blood pressure medicine regularly. High blood pressure can return when you stop or interrupt medications.

Tell your doctor if you experience side effects from your blood pressure medication so they can adjust it accordingly.

Be aware of over-the counter medications that can elevate blood pressure, like decongestants that contain ephedrine or pseudephedrine.

Remember, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Take your blood pressure seriously. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause stroke, heart failure or kidney failure.

— Dr. Stacy F. Davis, medical director of comprehensive heart failure program, Saint Thomas Heart at Baptist Hospital

Eat well, stay well

With flu season upon us, I’m wondering if there are certain foods or supplements I should be taking to try to avoid getting sick. It’s not that I’m against taking a flu shot, I’d just like to know of additional — and maybe more natural — ways of protecting myself against common winter illnesses.

— JJ in Nashville

Some foods gain a reputation for protecting against disease, but it is rare that a single food or nutrient can help. This is true for flu. However, the immune system works so much better if a person has overall good nutrition.

Good nutrition includes not just the nutrients you take in but also how you take them in. Eating well throughout the day, not skipping meals and not under-eating are key for the immune system to work. In addition, the following groups of foods have high concentrations of nutrients that provide barriers to viruses that cause colds and flu.

Basics include nutrient-dense dark greens (spinach, kale, collards, mustard, arugula, broccoli), berries and nuts, all of which are loaded with phytochemicals, minerals (selenium, zinc) and antioxidants that boost immune function. Nuts are also rich in healthy omega-3 fats and protein. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and selenium are salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, and herring. The omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and increase activity of white blood cells that eat up bacteria. They are also important for making the structures for the immune system. These fish are also the only natural food source of vitamin D, which is so very important for the immune system, especially in winter when we get little Vitamin D from sunlight.

Consider, too, these foods: Onions, garlic, shallots and scallions have flavonoid antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Mushrooms stimulate the immune system by increasing activity of white blood cells, which fight off infection. Yogurts with live cultures have probiotics that work in many ways to enhance your immune system. Eggs with the highest-quality protein of any food also contain choline, which keeps invaders from getting into the body. Beans (black, red, pinto, peas) and other legumes are rich in zinc, and selenium. Beans increase the number and aggressiveness of white blood cells fighting infection.

— Nan Allison, MS, RD, LDN, Allison Nutrition Consulting, Inc.

Article source: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111213/LIFE03/312130047/ASK-AN-EXPERT-Readers-ask-questions-about-high-blood-pressure-battling-illness?odyssey=nav%7Chead


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