A great many contributors to medical literature have agreed that overeating is a frequent cause of high blood pressure. The author has found it the most frequent cause and its correction the most satisfactory treatment. He does not claim that it is the only factor in the case. It is certain that infections of the teeth and tonsils frequently produce a rise in pressure. Fortunately these are remediable.
It is recognized that high blood pressure is a symptom of Bright’s disease. In its severer forms Bright’s disease is not amenable to treatment, nor is the associated high blood pressure. The laity do not know that Bright’s disease is sometimes mild in form. They do not realize that inflammation of the kidneys may be dependent on infections elsewhere in the body and may be helped by their eradication. The same is true of overeating in its relation to high blood pressure. It may produce an intestinal fermentation or putrefaction, which will injure the kidneys and often cause an inflammation in them, with attendant effect on blood pressure. If overeating is stopped soon enough, the benefits are miraculous.
The author has found high blood pressure so frequently associated with overweight, and so seldom has he seen a weight reduction diet fail to reduce the blood pressure in these cases, that he has been forced to the conclusion that over-eating is one of the chief causes of this great factor in the ill-health that comes to people of middle life.
It was never intended that man should spend the last twenty or thirty years of life in any condition but that of good health, certainly not in a state of incapacity because of weakness or sickness! The health of youth, the strength and vigor of our best years, should be prolonged well toward the end of life. With right eating this is possible.
With the kind of eating to which we are habituated, this is well-nigh impossible. Over-eating is so common that most people expect to increase in weight as the years go by. This is even accepted as normal and right. Nothing was ever more fallacious. If one has attained a good average weight for his stature between twenty and thirty years of age, there is absolutely no justification for further increase. This claim of the author is well borne out by insurance statistics. They show that those who are ten to twenty pounds under average weight in their forties, have a five per cent. lower death rate than those of average weight. Therefore average weight in the forties is too high.
From overeating has resulted also a rise in blood pressure as the years go by. It was once considered right and normal for the blood pressure to increase one point with each year of the age above twenty (starting at 120 at the age of twenty). This would make the blood pressure reading ‘s0 at the age of fifty. This opinion is being revised. The prolongation of youth means prolongation of the blood pressure of youth. Our motto should be:
Right eating, normal weight, normal blood pressure and the prolongation of youth.
What diet will extend the blood pressure reading of 120 into middle and later life?
A well balanced diet, correct in every way.
Does this mean a small amount of meat?
It means much more than that. In conformity with medical literature in general, excessive eating of meat and other protein foods is conceded to be an important dietetic cause of high blood pressure.
The author has come to recognize that excessive eating of sugars, pastries, and concentrated carbohydrates will produce the same unfortunate condition. The reduction of the amount of meat eaten daily was the first remedy offeredusually the last and only dietetic remedy. This method of treatment has benefited many, but has failed in a large number of cases.
Meat is a protein food. One third of a pound of meat (including chicken and fish) is sufficient for the day. If one eats plentifully of meat at dinner, it is not needed at breakfast and lunch. The carbohydrates, however, are as much at fault as the meatsperhaps m0re so in these latter days, since meat-eating for breakfast has been abandoned by many and its use for lunch and dinner reduced in amount.
The sugars and sweets, rich desserts and heavy starches, are frequently the sources of fermentation. The natural sugars, such as occur in ripe fruits and honey, are less apt to cause this trouble. Desserts are frequently made of several very concentrated articles of foodas sugar, butter, egg, cream, lard, and flour. These concentrated articles ferment more than coarse foods. The sugars and starches are digested by saliva; protein of egg-white by the gastric juice. These desserts are so soft that they require little chewing: consequently they do not receive a sufficient admixture of saliva to digest their carbohydrate content before the acid of the gastric-juice stops the action of the saliva upon them (the saliva is alkaline and will not act well in an acid medium).
Though they contain much nutrition and the body assimilates the greater part of it, they are a source of toxins on account of their fermentation in the gastro-intestinal tract. Fermentation is especially prone to occur in those who have gastric hyperacidity (hyperchlorhydria). Even bread, when eaten fresh, will cause a similar fermentation. The gastro-intestinal tract cannot digest with impunity a diet which is too concentrated, whether the excess be meats, sugars and breadstuffs, or fats.
In order to prevent the rise of blood pressure it is necessary to avoid almost to exclusion, candy, sweets, and rich desserts, cakes and cookies, and fresh white breads, and to limit the quantity of such starches as cereals, all bread, macaroni, and thickened soups.
For those suffering from high blood pressure, who have increased beyond the average weight for one of their height (as given in the tables for ages 20 to 30), the proper course is to follow the menus given in the chapter on “Weight Reduction Menus.” This generally reduces weight and blood pressure.
The symptoms of high blood pressure are relieved as the pressure drops. When the pressure has dropped about twenty per cent. it is time to change to the menus in the chapter, “Maintenance of Weight Menus.”
It must always be borne in mind that people vary as to the amount of food requiredboth in proportion to bodily activity and glandular activity, and the amounts here given are approximate only. They are what the author has found by experience to be about right in the average case.
It is well to call attention to another factor which might easily be overlooked. The performance of the same act does not always require the same amount of fuel, because it does not always require the same amount of exertion. If you have never played tennis, you will be sore and tired from half an hour at the game. An expert can hit harder and more accurately, feeling no soreness or fatigue and using less fuel in doing so.
That which is done with less effort, even though it require the same movement, will consume less fuel. A similar point may be expressed regarding the comparative difference between the tense and the relaxed types of individual. The one who is tense will consume more fuel in going through the same motion.
This leads to a point which will be mentionedthough it is unusual to encounter one to whom it applies. If one’s weight showed he reduced too rapidly, or if the high blood pressure should fall below the twenty per cent. indicated (and the patient should not feel so well thereafter), he can easily eat more foods of the same kinds. It would be better to increase the amounts of each article rather than change the proportion of the various kinds of foods and thereby alter the balance of the dietary.
Now a word as to the cases where a reduction of blood pressure is not so desirable. No one would be so foolish as to persist if it were not accompanied by improvement in the condition. It does not, as a rule, benefit cases of angina pectoris, though there may be some exceptions to this.
It cannot be used in cases of cerebral arteriosclerosis with the presence of thrombosis (narrowing of the arteries to the point where the symptoms of insufficient circulation have intervened). These are the cases that have symptoms of a stroke, recover quickly and may have many of these attacks of greater or less severity.