Sunday, May 13, 2012
High Blood Pressure: Lower Your Blood Pressure And Reduce Your Risk Of Stroke, Diabetes And Heart Disease
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of today's major medical problems. Two out of ten people in the UK need treatment for it - yet conventional medicine often resorts to drugs that, effectively, make your condition worse! Doctors recognise only about 5 per cent of hypertension cases as being linked to a specific cause, such as kidney disease. The other 95 per cent are labelled as 'essential hypertension', meaning that the cause is unknown.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of today's major medical problems. Two out of ten people in the UK need treatment for it - yet conventional medicine often resorts to drugs that, effectively, make your condition worse!
Doctors recognise only about 5 per cent of hypertension cases as being linked to a specific cause, such as kidney disease. The other 95 per cent are labelled as 'essential hypertension', meaning that the cause is unknown.
Hypertension is diagnosed when a person's blood pressure is higher than the normal range for their age, which is usually a measurement above 140/90. Blood pressure is expressed as the systolic pressure (when your heart is contracting) over the diastolic pressure (when your heart relaxes).
Often, there are no symptoms of hypertension. Some people experience headaches, nosebleeds or blurred vision, but most only find out they have the condition when they have their blood pressure taken. High blood pressure should never be ignored, however, as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
High Blood Pressure: Dehydration is the biggest factor in hypertension - diuretic drugs just make it worse!
Conventional medicine treats hypertension with drugs, which generally fall into three categories: beta-blockers (which reduce your heartbeat), vasodilators (which open up your blood vessels) and diuretics (which remove water from your body). All of these drugs have unpleasant side-effects, however, ranging from muscle aches and fatigue to loss of taste and nausea. And some can even aggravate the underlying problem over time - plunging you into a downward spiral of increasing use of medications, with no prospect of a real cure.
In looking for the causes of 'essential hypertension', conventional research has generally ignored the roles of water intake and nutrition. Blood pressure results from a balance between two factors: how hard your heart is pumping (cardiac output) and how easily plasma can diffuse out of your capillaries (peripheral resistance). Most people with hypertension have a normal cardiac output but increased peripheral resistance (Brit. Med. J. 322:912-916, 2001). The most likely cause of this is dehydration.
When you are dehydrated, the volume of blood in your body falls. But a water rationing system keeps your essential organs well supplied, by shutting down the capillaries supplying your muscles and skin. This increases your peripheral resistance. In addition, production of histamine, a hormone-like substance, increases, which causes your blood vessels to narrow. Both of these effects increase your blood pressure and can turn into a chronic problem if water intake is not increased. Yet modern medicine often treats this condition with diuretic drugs, which cause further dehydration!
Losing just 9lb in weight could bring your blood pressure down to normal!
The other major factor is nutrition. Blood pressure regulation is reliant on many essential nutrients, like potassium, magnesium, calcium, essential fatty acids and vitamin C - so it is important you're not deficient in them. The risk of hypertension is also increased in people who smoke, drink alcohol, are obese or who suffer from insulin resistance.
Natural treatments for hypertension can be as effective as prescription drugs, without the harmful side-effects. First, it's important to ensure that you get a reliable blood pressure reading done. Many measurements are artificially high because of the 'white coat effect' (anxiety about seeing your doctor). So try to relax before you have your blood pressure taken, and ask for it to be checked again in a day or two, if the reading is high.
Then, start to take control of your own blood pressure by drinking plenty of water - at least two litres a day. If you need to lose weight, follow a healthy, low-carbohydrate diet, such as that set out in Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution. Reducing weight by just 9lb has been found to bring blood pressure readings down to normal (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 63 (3, Suppl.): 423S-425S, 1996).
Cutting out sugar and reducing carbohydrates will also help to prevent insulin resistance and diabetes, two significant risk factors for hypertension.
High Blood Pressure: Eat your greens - and your blood pressure will drop
Because vegetarians have lower rates of hypertension than meat eaters, it used to be thought that meat consumption causes high blood pressure. But tests have shown that eating meat, eggs or fat has little effect (Nutrition Reviews 47(10): 291-300, 1989). The difference comes from the amount of green vegetables and fruit eaten, because of their high content of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and fibre - which can lower blood pressure (Lancet ii:742-3, 1983).
The right balance of sodium and potassium is vital for regulating blood pressure. So limit your salt intake and eat more potassium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, bananas and sunflower seeds. In tests, restricting potassium intake for just nine days led to an average four-point increase in blood pressure (New England J. Med. 329(18): 1177-82, 1989).
Magnesium is also crucial, and is found in dark green vegetables, nuts and figs. A low magnesium intake correlated most closely with high blood pressure when the diets of 615 men were analysed (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 45(2): 469-75, 1987). The vitamin C in fruit and vegetables is another powerful preventive - research shows that hypertension and strokes occur most frequently in people who eat the least vitamin C (J. Hypertens. 12: 1071-75, 1990).
High Blood Pressure: Celery, garlic and oily fish - nature's blood pressure regulators
Eat plenty of celery. The chemical that gives celery its distinctive smell - 3-n-butyl phthalide - lowers blood pressure by reducing stress hormones. Garlic and onions can also reduce blood pressure, because they contain adenosine, a natural vasodilator (a substance that widens your blood vessels) (Brit. J. Clin. Pract. Suppl. 44(8): 3-6, 1990).
The essential fatty acids found in oily fish, are as effective in lowering blood pressure as beta-blocker drugs! Four ounces of mackerel or salmon, three times a week, can be all that is needed to eliminate the need for anti-hypertensive medication (New England J. Med. 320(16): 1037-43, 1989).
Olive oil also reduces blood pressure - according to one study, just two teaspoons a day reduced blood pressure on average by 5 points (Clin. Exp. Hypertens. 3: 27-28, 1981).
High Blood Pressure: Nutritional supplements can bring your blood pressure tumbling down
Taking a daily dose of 6 grams of the amino acid, taurine, can dramatically lower your systolic pressure by nine points in just seven days! (Circulation 75(3): 525-32, 1987).
Co-enzyme Q10 is often deficient in people with hypertension, which makes it an extremely effective dietary supplement (J. Mol. Med. 2: 431-60, 1977).
Take 60 to 120mg a day. The herb Ginkgo biloba is known to increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels. Take 250mg as a standardised extract, to help bring your blood pressure down.
Follow a combination of these natural measures to beat hypertension and reduce, or eliminate, your need for prescription drugs. However, do not stop taking any existing medication without consulting with your doctor first. Exercise also plays a vital role - by placing additional demands on your muscles, it increases the blood flow to them, which opens up your capillaries and lowers your 'peripheral resistance'.
High Blood Pressure: Natural Nutrients To Reduce Your Cholesterol
There are plenty of other natural solutions that can help you reduce a high cholesterol level too:
Dietary fibre will lock up the cholesterol in your bile salts, so that it is not reabsorbed, and will remove it in your stools. Raw salad leaves, broccoli and 'GG-Bran' crispbreads are suitable low-carbohydrate sources of fibre.
Lecithin emulsifies cholesterol and isolates
it from the walls of your arteries so that it can't stick to them. Take two tablespoons of lecithin granules daily.
Essential fatty acids, omega-6 from borage oil and omega-3 from fish oils (or linseed oil if you prefer), control cholesterol production, reduce your risk of blood clots, lower blood pressure and keep your arteries supple. Take 1,500 mg of each daily.
Niacin is one of the most effective cholesterol-lowering nutrients, outperforming many prescription medications (Medical Hypotheses 32:21-28, 1990; Eur, J. Clin. Pharmacol. 40(suppl.):49-51, 1991). It also reduces blood fat levels and the risk of clot formation. Take 100 to 500 mg daily. Using the inositol hexanicotinate form will reduce the possibility of liver toxicity. Always take a high-dose vitamin-B complex supplement at the same time.
Chromium reduces blood fat and cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. It also stabilises blood sugar levels and helps correct insulin resistance. 200 to 400 mcg daily is usually enough, but you may need up to 1,000 mcg if you are diabetic.
Pantethine, a derivative of pantothenic acid, plays a pivotal role in cholesterol metabolism. In one study, 900 mg a day caused a 32 per cent drop in blood fats and a 21 per cent drop in LDL, while HDL levels rose by 23 per cent (Clinical Therapeutics 8(5):537-45, 1986). Take 500 to 1,000 mg a day.
We can't live without water!