Sunday, May 07, 2017

Oatmeal Gruel and Blood Pressure Maintenance

As an 53 year old male it was only a matter of time before my blood pressure started to reflect my age. Despite my (usually) clean diet and active lifestyle I had noticed my blood pressure had climbed upwards recently into the pre hypertension category. As a regular blood donator I have been able to track my blood pressure on a regular basis and while I need to factor in my white coat syndrome - my readings are always higher while in the doctor`s office or at the blood donation clinic - the recent spike has been troublesome.

After having some health markers confirmed by a nurse practitioner during a wellness initiative through my workplace I did some research on blood pressure and found that an increase is not uncommon as men age and that the "good" range for males over 50 is higher than the bench mark 120/80.

That is somewhat comforting as I have been hovering around the 138/86 range but my concern is really with my systolic(top) number which has recently been in excess of 140. My diastolic number has remained consistent and within acceptable parameters. As a result I did some additional research and found that there is a common condition known as isolated systolic hypertension.

"If you have a diastolic number — the bottom number of a blood pressure measurement — less than 90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a systolic number — the top number of a blood pressure measurement — greater than 140 mm Hg, you have a common type of high blood pressure called isolated systolic hypertension."

In retrospect I will admit my diet has been somewhat crappy of late so I have taken some dietary measures to try and get my readings back into the acceptable ranges. I have increased my consumption of fruits,greens and veggies while dramatically cutting back on salt usage. I have curtailed my consumption of processed foods and have begun to incorporate more Omega 3 rich seafood into my diet. I also need to temper my alcohol usage despite my love of the noble grape and reconsider my coffee/ caffeine intake.  I am a apple cider vinegar user but have now begun a daily ACV tonic regimen while ensuring I'm getting enough potassium in my diet. Whereas I have added legumes back into my diet over the past winter I am not a substantial whole grain eater. Anticipating a need to adapt my diet I took a new look at grains but specifically oatmeal.....the lesser of grain evils?

As an adult I consume it rarely mostly because it was a hassle to cook. Yeah - I know...not really but it was always easier to grab something else. (FTR - I avoid the instant oatmeal as it is loaded with sugar).

Eating raw oatmeal is fine so it can be easy and quick and I actually like the texture and flavor. I am aware that certain antinutrients known as phytates may be a issue for digestion and the absorption of minerals. The traditional method of avoiding this issue is the soaking of grains but is it really necessary? The jury remains out as most researchers acknowledge that soaking grains only reduce phytates by as little as 10% and phytates might actually have some beneficial properties.

 I`m taking the middle ground where soaking oats may be advisable by simply making the oatmeal a little more appetizing in its raw form.

I soak my oats for no other reason that its simple to do so and I can eat without the added step of cooking them prior to consumption. I am mixing my oatmeal with coconut milk and adding berries and yogurt.I have also started using ground flax seed to gain the benefits of additional (vegetable sourced) Omega 3 which can be added to the mix as required.

But for now the focus is on monitoring my blood pressure, the continued use of exercise and an improved diet to maintain a healthy range of readings.

Sidebar- Vitamin D3 Supplements?

There is a concern that many people in the northern climates are vitamin D3 deficient. Governments are now advocating raising the recommended daily allowances and the easiest method is through supplementation.That said there seems to be potential negative tradeoff if sufficient levels of K2 vitamin are not present within the diet. Research seems to indicate that a lack of K2 and substantial increases in D3 might lead to calcifying of arteries which could contribute to higher blood pressures. I have been supplementing D3 this winter but was also eating foods high in K2, specifically Gouda cheese and sauerkraut to compensate. Begs the question whether there was still a correlation with my spike in blood pressure? I am going to ease off on the D3 supplements and see if my blood pressure responds appropriately, gaining what D3 I need from dietary sources and sun exposure.

Update-May 7 2017 I am already seeing improvement in my numbers after two weeks. Systolic number is now consistently under 140 and averaging low to mid 130s. As of this morning an added benefit seems to be weight loss due to improved diet.

IMPORTANT-before starting any supplementation consult with a dietician or medical practitioner especially if you have pre existing conditions or other health issues. When in doubt about blood pressure consult a doctor. The self testing kiosks in most pharmacies are handy but seek professional assistance when required.

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