New Study Uncovers a Supplement That Can Lower Blood Pressure
It can also boost your athletic performance, the data shows.
Monitoring and managing your blood pressure is one of the best ways to improve your heart health as you age. Your blood pressure reading will give you two important pieces of information in the form of two numbers—one over the other. The first, top number represents your systolic blood pressure, which tells you how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when the heart contracts. The second, bottom number represents diastolic blood pressure, which tells you how much pressure your blood exerts while the heart rests between pumps.
"Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure (the first number) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50," explains the American Heart Association (AHA). "In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque, and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease."
Now, a new study conducted by a team at Imperial College London and published in the European Respiratory Journal looked at the effects of beetroot juice supplements on the blood pressure of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This refers to a group of diseases such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, which block airflow and inhibit breathing.
Oftentimes, those with COPD are at higher risk of hypertension due to the thickening of the airway walls, which can narrow the arteries around the lungs. The 81 subjects in the study all had a heightened systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or above (an ideal reading is between 90 and 120 mmHg). However, after a 12-week study period, those taking daily nitrate-rich beetroot juice supplements showed a systolic blood pressure reduction of 4.5 mmHg.
"Higher levels of nitrate in the blood can increase the availability of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps blood vessels relax," explained the study's lead researcher, Nicholas Hopkinson, via press release.
While this may seem like a modest reduction, it's great news for your heart health, the British Heart Foundation suggests. "For every 5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure, the risk of developing major cardiovascular disease fell by around 10 percent," their experts write. "Stroke and heart failure risk dropped by 13 percent, coronary heart disease by eight percent and death from cardiovascular disease by five percent."
The study also found that taking beetroot juice supplements helped to increase exercise capacity in those with COPD. After the 12-week study period, subjects were able to walk a greater distance over six minutes, compared with the control group. In fact, the trial group walked an average of 98 feet farther than those who took an identical nitrate-depleted placebo juice supplement.
This corroborates past research that has drawn a link between beetroot juice and enhanced athletic performance. "Beetroot juice increases levels of nitric oxide (NO), which serves multiple functions related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction," says a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients.
"These biomarker improvements indicate that supplementation with beetroot juice could have ergogenic effects on cardiorespiratory endurance that would benefit athletic performance," the researchers wrote.
Besides the benefits that beetroot juice supplements appear to provide to those with COPD, there are a range of other benefits that apply to the general population. According to a 2021 study published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition, beetroot juice also has strong antioxidant and anti-tumor properties.
Though beetroot supplements are generally considered safe to take, you should speak with your doctor before beginning any new regimen of dietary supplements.
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