Brief, intense, effective: How IRT can lower your blood pressure

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The Interborough Rapid Transit underground subway line opened in New York City in 1904, running for around 10 miles between City Hall and 145th Street in Manhattan. But it got longer and stronger over the decades as it became a major part of the city’s 248-mile-long subway system.

Another form of IRT -- isometric resistance training -- can help you run longer and stronger, too. It does that by placing tension on muscles without any motion in your surrounding joints or any lengthening and contracting of the muscles.

According to a new study published in Nature, IRT is a safe and effective way to lower your blood pressure. Looking at data from 24 trials, the researchers found that regularly doing IRT using a simple handgrip lowered systolic blood pressure by almost 7 mmHg and diastolic by almost 4 mmHg. Bonus: You can easily sneak IRT into your day! It takes only 12 minutes two to three days a week to see positive results using a handgrip device (or just making a fist very intently).

Other forms of IRT include planks, ab/core contractions and the wall sit -- a workout for quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. 1. Stand about 2 feet from a wall and lean your back against it. 2. Sink down so your thighs are parallel with the floor, if possible. 3. Hold for 15 seconds. 4. Aim for five rounds of 15 seconds each. For other IRT exercises, Google “isometric exercises”; go to videos. Start slowly. You want to contract your muscles, not contract an injury.   

Eat walnuts, live longer

When Tony Soprano’s loyal enforcer Paulie “Walnuts” did a job for his boss, you could bet someone’s health was going to take a turn for the worse. In real life, there’s nothing about walnuts that threatens your wellbeing. In fact, according to a new Harvard study, eating walnuts a few times a week can help you live longer and healthier. 

The study, published in Nutrients, looked at data on 100,000 people, average age 63, and found that, compared with folks who never eat walnuts, enjoying 5 or more ounces weekly appears to lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 25% and extend your life by one and a half years. Eating 2 to 4 ounces weekly may reduce the risk by 14%, and you’ll add around one year to your life. And for folks with the poorest level of nutrition, eating a half an ounce of walnuts a day slashes their risk of cardiovascular disease by 26%.

What’s in walnuts that makes you live longer and healthier? It’s probably the blend of healthy fats and nutrients: One ounce contains 4 grams of protein; 2 grams fiber; 45 milligrams magnesium; 2.5 milligrams of the omega-3 called ALA, which promotes absorption of nutrients, fights inflammation, lowers LDL cholesterol, and stabilizes glucose levels; and other poly/monounsaturated fats.

So enjoy walnuts -- but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’ll make up for a saturated-fat dense, ultraprocessed diet! Their real power shines through when they’re part of a plant-based diet, free from red meats, added sugars and refined carbs.    

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