Persistently high blood pressure is a common problem and is known as hypertension.  Hypertension means high pressure inside the arteries.

High blood pressure can be called “the silent killer,” as it slowly and insidiously damages the walls of the blood vessels and our internal organs, even if it is only moderately elevated. The organs most vulnerable to damage are the heart, brain and kidneys. Unfortunately many folks underestimate the damage that high blood pressure can cause; for example they have an aversion to taking their medication, forget to take their medication or have a funny belief system that they can control their blood pressure with stress management alone.

The reality is, that the proper control of blood pressure needs a holistic approach, which if implemented can prevent organ damage and add many years to your life.

There are two different types of hypertension

  1. Essential hypertension is the most common type and refers to high blood pressure with no underlying specific cause. In most cases the cause is actually insulin resistance.
  2. Secondary hypertension refers to high blood pressure being a result of another condition, for example kidney disease.

How do you measure blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure should be less than 140/90, but it is normal that your blood pressure increases with age. Blood pressure readings will change given one’s age, exercise status and whether you are standing or sitting.  Your health care practitioner will measure your blood pressure using a blood pressure cuff placed on your upper arm.  If a BP reading is high, many doctors will measure it on both arms and also in the sitting and standing position.

  • Systolic blood pressure – systolic pressure is the top number of your measurement and represents the maximum pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood out into the arteries.
  • Diastolic blood pressure – diastolic pressure is the bottom number of your measurement and represents the minimum pressure in the arteries between contractions when the heart relaxes to fill with blood.

What causes high blood pressure?

Most cases of high blood pressure are caused by hardening and/or blockage of the arteries.  These diseased blood vessels become narrowed and inflexible, and thus the heart must exert more pressure to pump the blood through the blood vessels.  Hardened blood vessels are less elastic and do not dilate properly which increases the pressure inside them.

Other possible causes may include; kidney disease and stress/anxiety which can cause an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system via excess of production of adrenalin.  There may be a family history of high blood pressure, or diabetes or Syndrome X.  Blood pressure most commonly occurs during middle age and is more common in the overweight.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

If there is a family history of blood pressure it is important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly.

It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, as elevated blood pressure often does not produce any symptoms.

Possible symptoms of high blood pressure are –

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Poor vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Cramps in the legs
  • Chest pains
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

What are the complications of persistent high blood pressure?

Elevated blood pressure can be extremely dangerous and if poorly controlled results in an increased risk of –

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Kidney disease
  • Blindness

It is sad that many patients with high blood pressure are unaware of the dangers of poorly controlled blood pressure. It is generally always possible to control even very high blood pressure if a holistic approach is used – this means using drugs along with nutritional medicine.

Visiting with an eye specialist (Ophthalmologist) is advised, as examination of the retina can be a reliable index of the extent of damaged blood vessels throughout the body caused by high blood pressure.

Treatment of high blood pressure

You may need to make lifestyle changes.  Begin with simple daily changes such as stopping smoking, limiting alcohol and sugar.  Try to introduce gentle regular exercise and reduce stress levels where possible.  If you have poor sleep associated with snoring and interruption of breathing (apnea) please ask for a referral to a sleep laboratory. These sleep problems can be treated effectively and they are very high risk factors for high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

Blood pressure medication is often needed and is very effective; it needs to be prescribed by your doctor. The most popular drugs are called the ACE inhibitors and they act by opening up the blood vessels – this is called a vasodilator effect.

ACE inhibitors can harm the kidneys

ACE inhibitors are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. The name stands for Angiotensin Converting Enzyme inhibitors. They are prescribed to people with high blood pressure, and often given to diabetics who only have mildly elevated blood pressure, in an effort to protect their kidneys from harm. (High blood sugar and high blood pressure can both damage the kidneys). New research published in the medical journal called PLOS One has shown these drugs themselves may actually harm the kidneys.

Data from the UK has shown a clear association between the increase in prescriptions for ACE inhibitors and the increase in hospital admissions for acute kidney injury. The researchers estimate that one in seven cases of acute kidney injury could be due to increased prescription of these drugs.

Please do not discontinue taking medication without your doctor’s approval. Ask your doctor for a blood test to check your kidney function, and do this every six months. There are alternative blood pressure drugs if you are concerned about your kidneys.

Natural therapies can be used along with blood pressure medication; however, you should not take anything extra if you are taking blood thinning drugs, unless first checking with your own doctor. If you are taking diuretic drugs you should not take potassium supplements unless first checking with your own doctor.

Natural therapies can reduce high blood pressure and those recommended are –

  • Magnesium
    Magnesium has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve peripheral circulation. Magnesium relaxes the smooth muscle in the artery walls and this is highly beneficial, as it opens up the arteries – this lowers blood pressure and also increases blood flow to vital organs. Magnesium can also reduce spasm of the coronary arteries; for this reason it has a protective effect against sudden heart attacks. Magnesium works much better if it is taken alone, as a pure magnesium supplement away from other supplements containing calcium. If calcium is taken at the same time as magnesium, it will fight against the blood pressure lowering effect of magnesium. Magnesium does not interact with blood pressure lowering drugs.
    Magnesium can be taken in tablet or potent powder form – it should be taken twice daily to help those with high blood pressure. Doses range from 300 to 600 mg elemental magnesium daily. The evening dose also helps to promote a restful sleep and reduce anxiety. Magnesium also prevents muscle cramps, facial twitching and greatly reduces migraine headaches.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
    EFAs help to lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol– good sources include hemp seed oil, hemp seeds, oily fish, krill oil, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, cold pressed seed and nut oils (coconut oil, olive oil). Avoid deep fried foods. Essential fatty acids reduce inflammation in the arteries and reduce blood clots.
  • Taurine
    This amino acid is found in some magnesium powders and helps to relax blood vessel walls. Taurine is also found in meat, eggs, seafood and dairy products.
  • Herbs
    Garlic, red onions, hawthorn berry, ruscus aculeatus, aesculus hippocastenum, citrus bioflavonoids.
  • Apple cider vinegar
    Has a cleansing effect on the liver and blood vessels –use as part of a salad dressing.
  • Vitamin C
    1000 mg twice daily in powder or capsule form. It is also important to get vitamin C from foods, especially from citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons and mandarins. They should be eaten and juiced as well, and I highly recommend that you eat them every day. I make a delicious vitamin C hit juice from:
    - Pineapple
    - Orange
    - Lime
    - Lemon
    - Apple
    Peel off the skin of the fruit, but with the citrus, leave a layer of white pith on the fruit; then pass the fruit through the juicer – you will get a creamy delicious juice. The white pith is very high in bioflavonoids, which will protect your blood vessels.
    During my lectures, I often ask the audience “hands up those who take vitamin C or juice citrus everyday?” Guess what? It’s usually only 10% of the audience!
    Most folks do not get enough vitamin C, or indeed many of the life saving antioxidants – this is very serious!
    They may not have scurvy, but they will have weakened blood vessels that are more prone to rupture – this can result in a stroke or other serious cardiovascular event. Vitamin C not only strengthens the blood vessel walls, it also reduces inflammation in the blood vessels, which reduces all types of cardiovascular disease.
  • A low carbohydrate diet
    This should include regular protein, legumes, nuts, fresh fruits & vegetables – this will reduce insulin levels, which in turn reduces high blood pressure. Of course a low carb diet is also the best way to lose weight, especially from the abdomen.
    For an easy and very effective low carb eating plan see the book – I Can’t Lose Weight and I don’t know why. It is effective for people with a fatty liver, high blood glucose, elevated insulin & insulin resistance, abdominal weight gain, blood lipid problems and cravings for carbohydrates.
    By following this eating plan one can lose weight, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent diabetes and avoid sugar cravings without feeling hungry.
    Warning: Grapefruit can interact with a number of high blood pressure medications and should be avoided.
  • Raw juicing
    “Raw Juices Can Save Your Life” outlines juicing recipes and smoothies to help reduce hardening and blockage of the arteries.  Raw Juices book is an A-Z medical guide to raw juicing.  See in particular, page 52 for high blood pressure recipes as well as useful supplements.

If you want to consult with a nutritionist to help you stay on track along your journey to good health and desired body weight, see Dr Cabot’s Clinic consultants.

Reference

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.