Know your blood pressure and do whatever it takes to get it down to 115/75.
Your blood pressure number may be even more important than your cholesterol. And you can lower it yourself. The best way? Getting a little exercise and losing some belly fat. Why belly fat? The omentum is what hangs over the stomach. The fat that’s stored there feeds the kidney, liver and other vital organs. Here’s the hypothesis: When you gain weight, you add fat inside the relatively rigid “kidney capsule.” This fat pushes on the kidney, so it says, “Hey, I need more blood pressure to drive blood through because I’m getting squeezed by the fat.” So it releases hormones that cause increased blood pressure. When you lose a little of that fat, even with just a few pounds of weight loss, your blood pressure goes down really fast. Cutting back on salt may help, but for some people reducing sugar and saturated fat in the diet may help even more. Recently I coached a patient (he’ll be on the PBS special You on a Diet coming in March) whose blood pressure started at 160/100, but he didn’t have any arterial disease. In seven weeks, he had his blood pressure down to 115/75 with just weight loss, walking and decreasing sugar and saturated fat in his diet. But if your blood pressure is over 140/90 and you’re not going to do these things reliably, then you should probably go on blood-pressure medication. New drugs can reduce blood pressure without major side effects.