A new review of 39 studies links vegetarian diets to lower blood pressure.Woman grocery shopping. The results were reported in the current issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers, based at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan, reviewed blood pressure and dietary habits in more than 21,000 people and concluded that those who ate a meat-free diet enjoyed lower blood pressure.

A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. The top number (systolic) measures the pressure in your arteries when you heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure in your arteries between heart beats, when you heart is at rest.  Black women have higher rates of high blood pressure (hypertension) than black men, or white men and women. A recent study of the southeastern United States found that 64 percent of the black women studied had hypertension, a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The Japanese researchers found that vegetarians had blood pressure that was 5 mm Hg to 7 mm Hg lower than meat eaters. Those numbers may seem small, but they are large enough to make a difference in your health. The study looked at people who had been vegetarians for years as well as people who were placed on a vegetarian diet to see what impact it might have on their health. In both cases, the meat-free lifestyle led to lower blood pressure. 

Plant-based diets offer a range of health benefits. Taking meat off your plate can help you to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and manage your blood sugar, in addition to lowering your blood pressure. Many vegetarians eat eggs, diary and, in some cases, fish. They do not eat poultry, red meat, pork or game. There are tons of reliable resources available if you want to design a tasty, nutritious vegetarian-eating plan.

Miscarriage Linked to Secondhand Smoke

You probably already know that cigarette smoke is bad for babies and young children.  A new study conducted at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, found that secondhand smoke may also cause pregnancy loss, stillbirth and tubal ectopic pregnancy.

In an effort to gain a full understanding of the impact of cigarette smoke on pregnancy, the study drew on information from 80,762 women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. The study looked  at historical and current data on current and former smokers and at lifetime secondhand smoke exposure going back as far as childhood, not just exposure during pregnancy.

Women who had never smoked, but who had the highest level of secondhand smoke exposure measured, had significantly greater risks of all three poor pregnancy outcomes. Their risk was almost as high as women who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. The highest level of exposure was defined as childhood exposure for more than 10 years; adult home exposure for more than 20 years or adult work exposure for more than 10 years.

Smoking rates among black men are much higher (24.2 percent) than black women (15.5 percent). So even if you have never smoked or you have kicked the habit, do everything you can to protect yourself and your loved ones from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Protecting Our Children from Racism

Psychologists working with a group of young children ages 5 to 10 were surprised to find that young white children think that young black children feel less pain when physically harmed. The research builds on previous work showing a similar bias among adults.

To understand how children perceived pain experienced by children of other races, researchers at the University of Virginia measured the responses of a sample of mostly white American children. The children were asked to use a pain scale to rate the level of pain they thought other children (shown to them in pictures) would feel if they bumped their heads or had their fingers slammed by a closing door. Girls rated girls. Boys rated boys.

They found that when the children were shown pictures of black children, they tended to rate the pain felt as less severe than when shown a picture of white child. The bias was not present in children as young as 5. It began to appear in 7-year-olds, but it was most prevalent among 10-year-olds.

“Our research shows that a potentially very harmful bias in adults emerges during middle childhood, and appears to develop across childhood,” says the study’s lead investigator Rebecca Dore, PhD, adding that her findings did not explain how the bias developed or how parents and teachers might address the problem.

She did suggest that talking to children about racial issues early in life might help, though, Dore notes, “parents are often reluctant to discuss race with very young children.”

Several studies show that it’s well worth having a talk with kids about discrimination. Research, including work conducted at Howard University, shows that communicating with children about discrimination may help buffer the impact of racism and protect kids’ mental and physical health. Having a strong sense of ethnic identity, pride, and commitment to culture also protects children from the impact of racism.