Would you believe saturated fat rich coconut oil could improve your cardiovascular health? It seems counter intuitive based upon common impressions of saturated fat being detrimental to our vascular system,1 however a new study indicates that the combination of coconut oil supplementation and exercise has been linked to reduced body weight, reduced blood pressure, improved baroreflex sensitivity, decreased lipid peroxidation, and reduced superoxide levels.2 These findings have the ability to help over 67 million people struggling with hypertension, who have blood pressure levels greater than 120/80 mm Hg3, increasing their risk of heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, vision issues and kidney disease.
The researchers used baroreflex sensitivity, a tool for the assessment of autonomic control of the cardiovascular system, to assess the impact coconut oil and exercise had on their subjects’ health, independently and together. Baroreceptors, located in the carotid sinus and in the aortic arch, adjust the pressure changes in the arterial wall to maintain homeostasis with parasympathetic responses.4 Cardiovascular diseases are often accompanied by an impairment of baroreflex mechanisms, and a reduction in the baroreflex control of heart rate has been reported in hypertension, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, and heart failure.5
Further, elevated blood pressure corresponds to both the release of free fatty acids into the blood and muscle fibers6 as well as to oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.7 These factors promote inflammatory processes such as atherosclerosis8 and lead to heart and blood vessel disorders, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and inflammatory diseases. Coconut oil and exercise showed the combination of the two led to a decrease in oxidative stress, which correlates with better endothelial-dependent relaxation of the aorta and significantly lower (20 mm Hg) blood pressure.9
How can this new research help you?
Hunter-gatherers avoided the many modern diseases that plague us today. The Paleo lifestyle, including the dietary and exercise prescriptions, can assist you in lowering blood pressures to healthy levels, especially with the regular addition of coconut oil into your dietary regime.
Dietary changes are usually prescribed prior to medication as a method to lower blood pressure levels into a safe range. The Paleo Diet eliminates processed foods, salt, and is high in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids.10
Numerous studies provide clear evidence of the positive effects of exercise on lowering blood pressure values to a healthy range.11 People who are inactive typically have higher blood pressure than those who exercise regularly, and inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.12
It is possible to reduce your risk for hypertension with lifestyle choices alone. Blood pressure tends to rise with age, so it’s important to monitor it annually with your doctor. The long-term health benefits by making long-lasting lifestyle changes by adopting a Paleo Diet will follow.
 Beegom, Raheena, and Ram B. Singh. “Association of higher saturated fat intake with higher risk of hypertension in an urban population of Trivandrum in South India.” International journal of cardiology 58.1 (1997): 63-70.
 Alves, Naiane FB, et al. “Coconut oil supplementation and physical exercise improves baroreflex sensitivity and oxidative stress in hypertensive rats.”Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 40.999 (2015): 1-8.
 Available at: http://hyper.ahajournals.org/site/misc/StmtGuidelines.xhtml. Accessed on February 25, 2014.
 La Rovere, Maria Teresa, Gian Domenico Pinna, and Grzegorz Raczak. “Baroreflex sensitivity: measurement and clinical implications.” Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology 13.2 (2008): 191-207.
 Eckberg DL, Sleight P. Human Baroreflexes in Health and Disease. In: EckbergDL, SleightP, (eds): Oxford , Clarendon Press, 1992
 Wang, Hui, et al. “Role of oxidative stress in elevated blood pressure induced by high free fatty acids.” Hypertension Research 32.2 (2009): 152-158.
 Halliwell, Barry. “Biochemistry of oxidative stress.” Biochemical Society Transactions 35.5 (2007): 1147-1150.
 Wu, Lingyun, et al. “Dietary approach to attenuate oxidative stress, hypertension, and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101.18 (2004): 7094-7099.
 Weaver, Kelly L., et al. “Effect of dietary fatty acids on inflammatory gene expression in healthy humans.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 284.23 (2009): 15400-15407.
 Available at: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/hypertension.html. Accessed on February 26, 2015.
 Whelton, Seamus P., et al. “Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.” Annals of internal medicine136.7 (2002): 493-503.