The increase in blood pressure is a major health problem, especially among ageing populations, affected by the increase in life expectancy. A study recently looked at how two isolated Amazonian tribes fed themselves and reveals that changing diets could be beneficial.
Blood pressure and aging
On the border between Venezuela and Brazil are the Yanomami and Ye'kuana tribesmen. While the former have stable blood pressure throughout their lives, the latter have incorporated a small amount of Western food into their meals and have problems with increasing blood pressure as they age.
A higher blood pressure can eventually lead to hypertension, endangering the life of the elderly. It has already been shown that a reduction in salt intake can help lower blood pressure, however, other studies seem to point to the opposite. One or more other factors had to come into play.
‘The idea that increasing blood pressure is the result of ageing is a widely held belief in cardiology,’ says epidemiologist Noel Mueller of Johns Hopkins University. ‘However, our results confirm that it could be an avoidable consequence of Western diet and lifestyle rather than of age itself.’
The food in question
Led on a group of 72 members of the Yanomami tribe, the new study published in the JAMA Cardiology Journal by Mueller and his team reveals a constant blood pressure throughout the stages of life for the aforementioned tribe: about 95/63 against 121/71 for an American adult. The Yanomami live mainly as hunter-gatherers and consume a lot of fruit and fiber, and very little salt and fat.
In contrast, an increase in blood pressure of 0.25 mmHg per year could be measured in Ye'kuana (compared to an average of 0.6 mmHg per year in Americans), who integrated processed foods into their diet. But the children of each tribe also showed an interesting result: among the Yanomami and Ye'kuana, young individuals showed a similar blood pressure before it increased in the latter.
At the age of 10, the Ye'kuana showed an average blood pressure of 5.8 mmHg higher than that of the Yanomami at the same age. A difference that has greatly increased at the age of 50 to 15.9 mmHg. These numbers are still not as high as those observed among young Americans, augmenting by 1.5 and 1.9 mmHg per year among boys and girls respectively. But they could be a key.
Although the study does not take into account several other factors (including genetics), it presents results that lead to reconsider the impact of diet on the health of our hearts and especially during childhood.