High blood pressure: NHS doctor explains causes
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In many developed countries, including the UK, the likelihood of hypertension increases with age. It is estimated the condition currently affects a third of adults in Britons, millions of whom are unaware they have the condition. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce blood pressure. One fruit juice, in particular, could deliver significant results.
L-citrulline, which is abundant in watermelon, is a compound shown to have the strongest effects on blood pressure.
It prompts the production of nitric oxide in the body, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and encourages flexibility in the arteries.
As the blood flow through the arteries is facilitated, blood pressure usually drops.
To investigate the effects of L-citrulline on high blood pressure, one team of researchers at Florida University recruited overweight adults who consumed watermelon extract over a period of six weeks.
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Participants had their blood pressure measured while one of their hands was submerged underwater, then again in normal condition.
The cold water test is employed in a large number of studies to determine the efficacy of substances on blood pressure, as it causes blood pressure to increase.
Previous studies investigating the effects of watermelon found extracts of the fruit produced marked improvements in blood pressure.
In one paper, researchers noted: “watermelon consumption decreased body weight, body mass index, systolic blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio.”
Systolic pressure refers to the pressure in blood vessels when the heartbeats. It is deemed a stronger predictor of cardiovascular complications than diastolic pressure – which measures pressure in blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats.
“The study shows that […] blood pressure can be achieved through daily consumption of watermelon,” wrote the researchers.
Doctor Charlotte Mills, a lecturer in nutritional scientists, is one of the latest scientists setting out to determine the effects of the compound L-citrulline on blood pressure.
She noted: “Watermelons are such a lovely fruit, but there has also been a lot of recent scientific interest in their potential health benefits.
“We know L-citrulline has the potential to lead to dilation of blood vessels and we want to find out if there is enough of it in watermelon juice to make a difference.”
What’s more, the fruit is also a source of lycopene, which has been shown to maintain the health of the prostate gland.
Vitamins B, C, E and other phytochemicals such as polyphenols and betacarotene possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Current NHS guidelines state that ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.
Blood pressure that ranges between 120.80mmHg and 140/90mmHg, should be treated or carefully monitored, according to the health body.
Anything above 140/90mmHg, is considered high blood pressure.
A number of different lifestyle habits, including exercise and a diet, can help keep blood pressure in check.
In fact, some studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exercise daily may be as effective as medication at lowering blood pressure for the rest of the day.
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