There may be a link between high blood pressure in adulthood and prenatal exposure to a pesticide banned from use in the U.S. in the 70s, according to a new study.
Girls exposed to the chemical, called DDT (short for dichlorodiplhenyltrichloroethane), while in the womb had a tripled risk for hypertension in adulthood, University of California, Davis, researchers found.
For the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers examined concentrations of DDT and its metabolite from blood samples taken from 527 women while they were pregnant between 1959 and 1967. The women all lived in the San Francisco Bay area. Researchers also conducted phone interviews between 2005 and 2008 with the daughters of these women (who were all between 39 and 47 years old) to see if they had any diagnoses of hypertension.
The researchers found that the odds of having hypertension were higher if the women were exposed prenatally to DDT, with the odds of having high blood pressure increasing with higher concentrations of DDT in their mother's blood.
"The prenatal period is exquisitely sensitive to environmental disturbance because that's when the tissues are developing," study researcher Michele La Merrill, assistant professor in the university's Department of Environmental Toxicology, said in a statement.
DDT, which was banned from use in the U.S. in 1972, has been linked with a host of other health problems. WebMD reported on a 2008 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which showed an association between DDT exposure and increased testicular cancer risk. And a 2007 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed an increased risk of breast cancer for women with high DDT exposure before adolescence, Environmental Health News reported.
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Meditation can help maintain a calm and focused mind, but one side benefit of that relaxation could also help with blood pressure. When relaxed, the body produces more nitric oxide, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2008/08/21/93796200/to-lower-blood-pressure-open-up-and-say-om">which in turn helps blood vessels to open up, reducing the pressure of the blood flowing through</a>.
Adopt A Pet
Research shows that <a href="http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/5-ways-pets-improve-your-health">pet owners have lower blood pressure</a> (also: lower cholesterol and heart disease risk), thanks to the anxiety-reducing qualities of an animal companion.
Work On Your Marriage
In one 2008 study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-3955956.html">researchers found that happily married adults had better blood pressure</a> than happily single and unhappily married adults.
This one's a no-brainer, but exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure. There are many ways that the simple act of moderate exercise can improve your blood pressure (and overall health). First, it helps with other risk factors for hypertension, like extra weight and stress. But exercise also improves the strength of your heart so that <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00024">it can more effectively and efficiently pump blood, which lowers the pressure on the arteries</a>.
Stick To One Or Two Drinks
Moderate drinking -- one drink for women and men over 65 and two drinks for younger men -- can actually help reduce blood pressure. <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00027">But more than that has the opposite effect</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Monitor Your Caffeine
There is some evidence that caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure, though it's unclear if there is a long-term effect. The <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00027/NSECTIONGROUP=2">Mayo Clinic recommends</a> checking blood pressure 30 minutes after a cup of coffee or caffeinated soda to see if the effect remains.
Quit Smoking -- And Smokers
Of course, for this and many other reasons, you should quit smoking. But even second-hand smoke can have a damaging effect on your blood pressure <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandYourRiskforHighBloodPressure/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp">because it damages arteries</a>.
Choose Pressure-Lowering Foods
Several foods have been found to naturally lower blood pressure. Things like chili peppers, chocolate, beans and bananas have all been proven to lower blood pressure in humans or in trials with rats. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/raisins-and-7-other-foods-lower-blood-pressure_n_1382535.html#slide=817449">Read on for more here</a>.
Keep Weight Under Control
Eating well is essential to maintaining healthy blood pressure, but even if you live on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/raisins-and-7-other-foods-lower-blood-pressure_n_1382535.html#slide=817449">beans and bananas</a>, extra pounds could harm you. In fact, one Italian study found that <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070928180348.htm">hypertension in overweight patients was a secondary condition, caused by the excess weight</a>. In other words, once the weight was lost, the high blood pressure went with it.
Stay Away From Salt
Perhaps the best known advice for healthy blood pressure is maintaining a low sodium diet. Follow the <a href="http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/faq.asp">USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans</a>: a max of 2,300 mg of sodium for healthy, young adults -- or 1,500 mg a day or fewer for those who are over 50, African-American or suffering from diabetes or chronic kidney disease.