Cherry juice can lower your blood pressure

Drinking cherry juice is as good as taking drugs at reducing blood pressure, researchers have found.

People who drank 60ml of cherry concentrate, diluted with water, saw their blood pressure drop by 7 per cent within three hours.

This was enough to slash the risk of a stroke by 38 per cent or heart disease by 23 per cent.

Patients who take blood pressure medication see a similar impact, scientists at Northumbria University said.

High blood pressure affects some five million people in England and, if left untreated, increases risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke and dementia.

The research team, whose work is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tested 15 people who were displaying early signs of high blood pressure.

The volunteers were given either 60ml of a Montmorency cherry concentrate diluted with 100ml of water, or the same volume of a ‘placebo’ drink, a fruit-flavoured cordial.

The scientists found that the participants given the cherry concentrate saw their peak blood pressure drop 7 per cent further than those who drank the fruit cordial.

Cherry juice

The scientists think that cherry juice has such a strong impact on blood pressure because it is rich in phenolic acids – a type of naturally-occuring antioxidant.

When tracking the volunteers, the team found that the greatest improvement in blood pressure oc-curred when two phenolic acids – protocatechuic and vanillic acid – reached peak levels in patients’ blood.

Study leader Karen Keane, whose work was funded by the Cherry Marketing Institute in the US, said: ‘The majority of cardiovascular disease is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified.

‘These include high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and diabetes.

‘Raised blood pressure is the leading cause of deaths from cardiovascular disease, yet relatively small reductions in blood pressure can have a large impact on mortality rates.

‘The magnitude of the blood pressure lowering effects we observed was comparable to those achieved by a single anti-hypertensive drug and highlights the potential importance that Montmorency cherries could have in the effective management of high blood pressure.’

Co-author Professor Glyn Howatson added: ‘This is the first study to investigate the acute effects of Montmorency tart cherry consumption on blood pressure, arterial stiffness and microvascular vasodilation in males with early hypertension.

‘This exciting set of data complements a growing body of research to show that eating the right sorts of foods can provide potential health benefits.

‘We believe these benefits might be linked to the combined actions of some of the plant compounds within the Montmorency concentrate and the positive impact they exert on vascular function.’

Spironolactone may treat hypertension

A drug that costs £1.50 a month and has been around for 50 years could revolutionise the care of patients with persistent high blood pressure.

Spironolactone was first used in 1959 as a water pill to treat fluid retention – but new findings show it also works in three out of five patients whose blood pressure is out of control.

Experts today said the finding offered hope of ‘spectacular’ cost savings.

An estimated 500,000 people have high blood pressure that does not respond to at least three types of medication, known as resistant hypertension.

People with high blood pressure are advised to change their lifestyle and eat less salt, lose weight, drink less alcohol, eat more fruit and vegetables and exercise more.

But six million Britons also take drugs to reduce their blood pressure, which raises the risk of early death, heart attacks and strokes.

The new study involved 335 patients who had uncontrolled blood pressure despite treatment with the maximum doses of three antihypertensive medicines.

The results show that 60 per cent of patients had their blood pressure controlled for the first time.

Spironolactone was three times more likely to work, when added to three existing pills, than two other types of drug added to the mix.

Findings from the study, funded by the British Heart Foundation charity, were released at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in London.

Study presenter Professor Bryan Williams, from University College London, said: ‘Spironolactone is overwhelmingly the most effective treatment for resistant hypertension.

‘When we look at the achieved blood pressure on these treatment options, the average home systolic blood pressure on spironolactone was 134.9 mm Hg, which is just below the target level of 135 mm Hg.

‘In other words, we were controlling a large percentage of these patients previously defined as [having] uncontrollable hypertension.’

The drug costs the NHS between £1.50 and £2.50 a month, depending on the dose.

Blood pressure
Blood pressure

Professor Williams said the drug offers a ‘spectacularly cost-effective approach’ in the UK and elsewhere, because it’s cheap and patients are at very high risk of suffering serious heart problems.

‘These people are at an especially high risk of cardiovascular events due to their long-term exposure to high blood pressure and the fact that many of them have other conditions such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease,’ he added.

He added that despite 50 years of research, there had been little progress in achieving the optimal drug treatment for resistant hypertension – but the ‘unequivocal’ trial findings should now lead to a re-writing of current guidelines and clinical practice.

Spironolactone, originally developed as a diuretic, to treat people who retain too much fluid, is currently used for heart failure and some liver and kidney conditions.

In the trial there were larger reductions in blood pressure for patients taking the drug in combination with three other medications, than for those trying two other drugs or a dummy pill.

Patients had their blood pressure measured at six and 12 weeks.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said it showed that inexpensive drugs which have been around for a long time are effective and safe for treating high blood pressure.

Because doctors are already familiar with the drug, he said, the findings ‘should lead rapidly’ to its everyday use in resistant hypertension and for hypertensive patients who may be at high risk of developing diabetes.

He said: ‘The results are hugely encouraging both for patient welfare and the NHS budget. We would expect medical guidelines across the world to change rapidly to reflect these results.’