One in every four adults — some 50 million people in the USA alone — have high blood pressure. But many people are unaware that they have the condition. Untreated hypertension increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. These are the first and third commonest causes of death in the USA. Hypertension can also damage the kidneys and increase the risk of blindness and dementia. That is why hypertension is referred to as a “silent killer.” Everyone is at risk from high blood pressure. However, the elderly tend to have a different hypertension profile compared with younger people, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It is important to raise our collective consciousness of a particular type of high blood pressure known as isolated systolic hypertension (ISH). Systolic pressure is the first number in a blood pressure reading and is an indicator of blood pressure when the heart contracts. The second number, the diastolic pressure, reflects pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.
In the past, many doctors diagnosed high blood pressure based on diastolic pressure, the smaller number. However, new research suggests that systolic pressure is a much better indicator of hypertension, particularly in the elderly. Diastolic pressure increases up to age 55 and then tends to decline, according to the NHLBI. On the other hand, systolic pressure continues to increase with age and is an important determinant of elevated blood pressure in middle-aged and older adults. While any pressure above 140/90 is considered elevated, about 65% of people with hypertension who are over age 60 have ISH. High blood pressure interacts with other major risk factors such as diabetes and high levels of cholesterol to amplify the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Eating tomatoes in your daily salad or regularly enjoying a healthy red sauce on your spaghetti could help reduce your risk of stroke, according to research published this week in the journal Neurology. Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant that is good for brain health, the researchers say, and cooked tomatoes seem to offer more protection than raw.
“This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke,” says study author Jouni Karppi, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. “A diet containing tomatoes… a few times a week would be good for our health. However, daily intake of tomatoes may give better protection.”
Karppi says it’s the chemical lycopene that gives tomatoes and other fruits/vegetables their rich red color, that is helping to protect the brain. Tomatoes are particularly high in the powerful antioxidant that acts like a sponge, soaking up rogue molecules called free radicals that if left unchecked can damage cells. Lycopene has attracted a lot of attention in recent years because it’s such a powerful antioxidant. If we don’t eat enough lycopene-packed foods, experts suspect too many free radicals get left in the body, damaging blood vessels by helping to form fatty deposits. When these deposits build up, a blockage forms. If that vessel is in the brain, the blockage can cause a stroke.
One in seven strokes happens at night, and sufferers may not get medicine that could prevent brain damage, suggests a new study.
“These kinds of strokes are common — about 15% of all strokes. That’s a substantial amount of people,” says study author Jason Mackey, a stroke researcher at the University of Cincinnati.
Mackey says “wake-up” stroke sufferers are more likely to miss out on a potentially life-saving clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, that can only be given within the first few hours after stroke symptoms begin. Given beyond that window, it could cause complications.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1,854 patients over 18 who had been treated in hospital emergency departments in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky over the course of a year for ischemic strokes. These are caused by clots in the arteries of the brain that block blood flow, and are the most common type of stroke.
Mackey and his colleagues found that 273 patients experienced wake-up strokes. When translated to the greater population, that figure suggests approximately 58,000 people a year, he says.
Even though it’s difficult to know when a wake-up stroke first occurred, getting speedy medical care is critical. “The most important thing is if you suspect you’re having a stroke, call 911,” he says.
There’s nothing quite like a vine-ripened tomato, bursting with juice, or a slow-simmered tomato sauce, thick and rich — and now a new study suggests the red fruit and its products could be good for lowering the risk of stroke.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were the least likely to have a stroke over 12 years. Lycopene is an antioxidant that is found at high levels in fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelons and guavas, according to the National Institutes of Health. For reference, a cup of tomato juice (240 milliliters) contains approximately 23 milligrams of lycopene.
“This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke,” study researcher Jouni Karppi, Ph.D., said in a statement. “The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research.”
The Neurology study included 1,031 men between the ages of 46 and 65 who lived in Finland. Researchers analyzed the lycopene levels in their blood at the beginning and the end of the study (which lasted, on average, for 12 years). By the end of the study period, 67 men had had a stroke. Fewer men with the highest lycopene levels had strokes than men with the lowest lycopene levels: Of the 259 men with the highest levels of lycopene, 11 had a stroke; meanwhile, of the 258 men with the lowest levels of lycopene, 25 had a stroke.
And when the researchers analyzed strokes that were caused solely by blood clots, they found that the men who had the highest levels of lycopene had a 59 percent decreased stroke risk compared with those with the lowest levels of lycopene.