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Author Q&A
Dr Janet Brill, author of Blood Pressure Down 	–  The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks-Without Prescription Drugs

Nationally recognized diet, nutrition and fitness expert Dr. Janet Brill, is the author of 3 books:

Why did you write this book?

As a nutritionist specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention, I saw a need among Americans that was not being filled. Sadly, 1 in 3 Americans has this condition-hypertension – making this a public health epidemic of great magnitude.

The statistics are chilling. Every 39 seconds, we lose another American to a fatal heart attack or stroke. Yet, despite the fact that the largest risk factor for cardiovascular death – high blood pressure – is both reversible and preventable, 78 million adult Americans continue to suffer from this life-threatening condition. And another 2 million will be diagnosed over the next year.

Perhaps even more alarming, 56% of those already diagnosed with this potentially fatal affliction still do not have their blood pressure under control, with many deterred by the frustrating side effects of medications.

The good news? Lifestyle changes can be just as effective as prescription drugs in reversing and preventing hypertension. In fact, the government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was rated the #1 Best Diet Overall by the U.S.News & World Report. Drugs alone will not solve the problem. Americans need to know that lifestyle is the first line of defense against this silent killer.

I give people the optimal science-based blood pressure-lowering lifestyle on a silver platter in an easy-to-read and follow 10-step plan.

How is your approach to treating high blood pressure different from other books?

My program is a nutrition and exercise-based therapy that has been scientifically-proven to reduce blood pressure.

This book shows how high blood pressure can be lowered and prevented quickly and safely – without the side effects of many blood pressure medications. In 10 simple and delicious steps, this unique plan harnesses the power of lifestyle changes, including elements of the DASH diet, proven to be the most effective dietary medicine for hypertension.

There are several books on the market that outline the DASH diet. Essentially, the Blood Pressure DOWN plan is the DASH diet and much, much more. It includes blood pressure power foods like bananas, yogurt, soy, and dark chocolate, as well as exercise and stress reduction.

Each component of the plan tackles high blood pressure from a different angle; together, this potent, natural combination therapy can lower blood pressure as much as most single prescription blood pressure medications. Put them all into action simultaneously, and you have the safest and most effective natural method to get your Blood Pressure Down.

Backed by solid research, the plan cuts through the medical jargon to explain how and why each step in the program works. The Blood Pressure Down plan is both thorough and accessible, including many convenient checklists, charts, meal plans, and over 50 delicious heart-healthy recipes that make incorporating each step into a heart-healthy lifestyle easy, practical, and never overwhelming.

It's not complicated. Many of the steps in the plan are basically plain old healthy eating, with no harmful side effects or expensive prescription medications. Most can be purchased at your local supermarket. Add in a few supplements, lose a few pounds, cut down on your sodium intake and get some exercise in, and you have a safe and effective natural alternative (or adjunct) to prescription medication.

Best of all, over time the benefits endure and continue to improve. Following these 10 simple steps will surely be conducive to a salubrious lifestyle – you will add years to your life and life to your years.

What is a healthy/normal blood pressure for adult Americans?
  • Normal – Normal blood pressure is defined as a top number (systolic) of less than 120 mm mercury and a bottom number (diastolic) of less than 80 mm mercury.

Numbers Your Doctor Will Be Concerned About:

  • Prehypertension – The following numbers categorize you as having prehypertension: systolic blood pressure (top number) of 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure reading (bottom number) of 80 to 89 mm Hg.

    It is estimated that 15% of deaths from heart attacks occur in people with blood pressure in the prehypertension range. Individuals with prehypertension face twice the risk of developing full blown hypertension compared to those whose blood pressure is normal.
  • Stage 1 hypertension. Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure reading (bottom number) of 90 to 99 mm Hg.

    Individuals with stage 1 hypertension are advised by the medical establishment to take a prescription medication (typically a thiazide diuretic) – in addition to lifestyle therapy – to treat their hypertension.
  • Stage 2 hypertension – Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 160 mm Hg or more or a diastolic blood pressure reading (bottom number) of 100 mm Hg or more.

    Individuals with stage 2 hypertension are advised by the medical establishment to take at least a two-drug prescription medication combination – in addition to lifestyle therapy – to treat their high blood pressure. Both side effects and medication costs pose significant problems for these people, associated with increasing doses and increasing numbers of medications.
Why is it dangerous to walk around with high blood pressure?

Persistent high blood pressure is a life-endangering situation. It is the number one cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attacks, blindness and kidney failure. These are diseases that kill nearly 1 million Americans each year, more than any other condition.

Get your blood pressure down and you can prevent premature disease, disability and death.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is also known as “the silent killer” because it is a largely symptomless disease. This is what makes high blood pressure so insidious: you can't see or feel it, yet if left untreated, it will kill you.

It is no wonder that 8% of the adult U.S. population has undiagnosed high blood pressure – they can’t feel that anything is wrong. Perhaps this is one reason that, of the over 78 million adult Americans already diagnosed with high blood pressure, a whopping 56% do not have it under control.

If you are one of the people who believes that if there was really a problem, you would feel it, think again. You are taking a chance with your life. The fact is, the higher your numbers and the longer you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, the greater your risk of developing the devastating health consequences that often accompany high blood pressure – all the more reason for you to find out your numbers and start today to get your Blood Pressure Down.

What foods are most important if you need to lower your blood pressure?

Many of the foods I recommend are packed with blood pressure-lowering minerals and are no more dangerous or expensive than bananas, spinach and walnuts.

Many of the steps in the plan are basically plain old healthy eating, with no harmful side effects or costly prescription medications. Most can be purchased at your local supermarket.

Add in a few supplements, lose a few pounds, cut down on your sodium intake and get some exercise in, and you have a safe and effective natural alternative (or adjunct) to prescription medication.

When it comes to preventing and treating high blood pressure, it's strength in numbers – the more steps added together on a daily basis, the more powerful the blood pressure lowering additive effect of this combination lifestyle therapy plan.

Many different foods, supplements, and exercise routines are individually effective in lowering blood pressure, but my patients and I have found that my Blood Pressure Down combination creates the most potent health-promoting and non-pharmaceutical strategy for getting those numbers under control.

Does salt really impact a person's blood pressure? Suppose the person is not “salt sensitive?”

Our food supply is tainted. The fact is that salt, America's prized condiment, is actually a slow poison. Excess sodium intake is inextricably linked to the development of serious diseases in American women and men, namely heart disease (the No. 1 killer) and stroke (the No. 3 killer).

In fact, according to data from the world famous Framingham Heart Study, a whopping 90% of us will eventually develop high blood pressure from a lifetime of too much salt – making almost all of us “salt sensitive.”

Slash the salt and you slash your blood pressure numbers – it's as simple as that. The bottom line is that although your body needs some sodium to function properly, most people eat far too much sodium, which contributes heavily to high blood pressure.

Cut out all forms of added seasoning salts (including table salt, sea salt and kosher salt) and you will take a huge step in getting, and keeping, your blood pressure down.

The book will teach you how to enjoy delicious food – prepared without salt – and seasoned with tasty herbs, spices and vinegars. Train your tastebuds to enjoy foods the way Mother Nature intended and you will be surprised at how you lose the craving for salt and how quickly your pressure drops.

There are over 50 delicious, easy-to-prepare blood-pressure-lowering recipes included in the book.

What is the best exercise for lowering blood pressure?

The 3 most powerful blood pressure-lowering lifestyle strategies known to humankind are diet, exercise and stress management. Note that food is just one part of this equation. Hence, the final step in the Blood Pressure Down plan is exercise and stress management.

The best medicine for healing the arteries and reversing high blood pressure is moderate aerobic exercise combined with relaxation therapy (such as deep breathing exercise), practiced on a daily basis.

Why is your plan better than just taking medicine?

Relying on drug therapy to treat and prevent this global epidemic is akin to putting a Band Aid on a gaping wound.

Lifestyle modifications should serve as first line therapy for the prevention and treatment of this disorder – with the specific changes outlined in this book as the foremost strategies for combatting this disease.

With the Blood Pressure Down plan, I hope you will see how you can focus on the “cans” rather than the “cannots.” You will learn about all the delicious foods and activities that you can enjoy while making your health a priority.

What is your goal for writing this book?

On a personal note, I know all too well about the dangers of high blood pressure. Not just because of my profession, but because my grandmother, my brother (at just 56) and my father, who had his first heart attack at 45 and died several years later from a second heart attack, all had high blood pressure which led to their premature demise.

This haunts me as high blood pressure is easily detected and has a multitude of safe and low-cost non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions to rapidly bring blood pressure under control – and yet millions of Americans continue to live with and die from high blood pressure.

It is my grandmother, brother and father's untimely deaths from this insidious disease that has inspired me to write with great passion about cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention through simple lifestyle changes.

That is part of the reason why I wrote my latest book, BLOOD PRESSURE DOWN: The 10-Step Plan to Lower Your Blood Pressure in 4 Weeks – Without Prescription Drugs (which will be released by Three Rivers Press May 7, 2013).

I hope that this book will help others suffering from this “not-so-silent” killer to avoid my grandmother, father and brother's fate.

Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RDN, FAND, LDN Nutrition, Health and Fitness Expert |
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Today's Nutrition Tip
Getting rid of the underarm "jiggle" for summer
The best thing you can do to firm up those arms and get rid of that extra underarm "jiggle" for swimsuit season is to get yourself right over to the nearest gym and build up your program of building and toning strength-training exercises. For the arms, you will need to work on the muscles in the back of your arms (those out-of-shape triceps) and the muscles in the front (the "Popeye" muscles, or biceps). You can tone those-muscle groups using gym equipment. Some great exercises that target the triceps are triceps pushdowns, bench dips, triceps kickbacks and plain old push-ups. Exercises that target the biceps generally involve "curls," using dumbbells of barbells... That said, keep in mind that there are two separate types of tissue: fat and muscle. The best way to keep those arms looking lean and shapely is to take a two-pronged approach: lose the fat and put on and tone up the muscle. Losing body fat involves combining regular calorie-burning aerobic exercise (such as walking or running) with a calorie-controlled diet. Adding and toning muscles requires a regular program of strength-training exercises. Start putting it all together now, and before you know it you'll be ready for summer looking healthy and fit!
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