As Figure 1 indicates, numerous approaches have been scientifically
proven to be safe and effective at lowering blood pressure.
For example, for every Kg of weight loss (2.2 pounds), systolic
blood pressure is reduced an average of 1.6 points. The adoption
of a vegetarian high fiber diet will also reduce systolic blood
pressure, by an average of 2.8 points. Also, and very significantly,
the reduction of alcohol and sodium will reduce systolic blood pressure
by 4.8 and 16 points respectively. It is interesting to note that
the 16 point reduction from severe sodium restriction is actually
a larger effect size than would be expected from any combination
of medications. Exercise has additionally been shown to have a powerful
normalizing effect on blood pressure. For example, a regular walking
program of 45 minutes, 4-5 times a week may reduce blood pressure
by an average of about 7 points.
Water-Only Fasting and Blood Pressure
In a study conducted at the TrueNorth Health Center in California
and published in the June 2001 issue of the Journal of Manipulative
and Physiological Therapeutics, the use of water-only fasting followed
by a low-fat, low-salt vegan diet demonstrated the largest effect
on lowering blood pressure of any study in the scientific literature
(See Figure 2). The average drop in systolic blood pressure in 174
consecutive patients was 37 points. In those patients with higher
levels of blood pressure, starting at what is called Stage 3 hypertension
(where the systolic blood pressure exceeds 180 points or 180 mm/Hg),
the average reduction was 60 points!
In a second study, also conducted at the TrueNorth Health Center
and published in the October 2002 issue of the Journal of Alternative
and Complimentary Medicine, a group of 68 patients with "borderline"
high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure between 120 and 140
mm Hg) underwent a period of water-only fasting for an average of
two weeks. The average reduction in blood pressure exceeded 20 points,
resulting in a final average blood pressure of 96/67. This is a
level similar to that level suspected to be optimum blood pressure
by Dr. Richard Peto of Oxford and other authorities.
Worth Getting Healthy
In 2001, California's largest labor union, The International Union
of Operating Engineers, elected to make the TrueNorth Health residential
health education program a fully covered medical benefit offered
to all active and retired union members and their families that
suffer with high blood pressure or diabetes. This represents the
first time in history that a major medical payer has agreed to provide
water-only fasting as a fully covered medical benefit.
The Operating Engineers Union is self-insured and all information
concerning medical expenses is centralized. This has allowed us
to accurately evaluate the effect of the fasting program on the
cost of medical treatment and drugs in the year prior to, and the
year after, participation in the TrueNorth Health program. The results
have been clinically and economically impressive. The cost of medical
and drug treatment was reduced an average of over $2700 per member
in the first year alone. This cost savings exceeded the cost of
the program, demonstrating that fasting can be both clinically and
economically effective. TrueNorth Health Center will continue to
track the outcomes of the Union members in the years to come, and
we expect the long term results to be outstanding.
Feeding after the fast
The effect of fasting on blood pressure can seem like a miracle,
as patients who have been told that they need to take medications
"for the rest of your life" are able to throw those medications
away. However, in order to sustain the results requires compliance
with a health promoting lifestyle, including proper diet, sleep,
and exercise habits.
With respect to diet, we instruct our patients to avoid all processed
foods that contain added salt, including bread, cheese, highly salted
salad dressings, soups, sauces, soda, as well as the use of coffee,
alcohol and chocolate. In place of a conventional American diet,
we encourage a diet derived exclusively from whole, minimally processed
foods including fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, beans,
and raw nuts and seeds.
Breakfast is often fresh fruit and/or oatmeal with some ground
flax seeds. Lunch is often a large raw vegetable salad, with steamed
vegetables and minimally processed carbohydrates including steamed
or baked potatoes, yams, squash etc. Dinner may include another
large raw vegetable salad, more steamed vegetables and rice, millet,
or a dish out of The Health Promoting Cookbook.
By avoiding all meat, fish, fowl, eggs and dairy products as well
as all foods with added oil, flour, salt and sugar, our patients
eliminate the dietary excess that is a contributing cause of high
blood pressure. When combined with a program of proper sleep and
exercise, the results are consistently outstanding. By utilizing
fasting to jump start a new way of living, patients are able to
break bad habits, and to gain control of their health. High blood
pressure is just one of many major health concerns that can be successfully
treated with this approach. And it is one that you can definitely
learn to live without!
For more information on the Center or to download the complete
text of the study go to www.healthpromoting.com
appeared in the December 2002 issue of Health Science Magazine