The facts about high blood pres­sure— and what you can do about it

Better Nutrition - - FRONT PAGE - Do you have a ques­tion for Dr. Kane? Email it to nbrechka@ aim­me­dia. com with “Ask the ND” in the sub­ject line.

I try to fol­low the med­i­cal news. Guide­lines around blood pres­sure have been bounc­ing around the past few years. What’s go­ing on? — Bill Q., Pol­son, Mont.

For a long time the num­bers 120/ 80 sig­nifi ed “per­fect” blood pres­sure, although some­what lower is rarely a prob­lem. The up­per num­ber, called sys­tolic, ba­si­cally mea­sures the re­sis­tance, or the “pres­sure” of the blood vol­ume push­ing against your veins and ar­ter­ies. This pe­riph­eral re­sis­tance is quite volatile: it can bounce around a bit be­cause it is sus­cep­ti­ble to adren­a­line, the ma­jor stress hor­mone. Adren­a­line is a short- act­ing, strong vaso­con­stric­tor, mean­ing it dra­mat­i­cally in­creases the pres­sure in your vas­cu­lar sys­tem, and thus this up­per num­ber can jump up sig­nifi - cantly dur­ing a stress­ful event— in­clud­ing go­ing to the doc­tor’s offi ce.

The lower num­ber, called di­as­tolic, mea­sures the abil­ity of your heart to pump blood be­tween its cham­bers, which in­fuses the blood with oxy­gen from the lungs. An el­e­vated di­as­tolic above 90 mm/ Hg ( mil­lime­ters of mer­cury be­ing pushed up a tube, though this method is no longer used) can sig­nify the be­gin­ning of an en­larged, boggy, less effi cient heart mus­cle.

How High Is Too High?

Guide­lines from the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­ogy and the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion re­cently low­ered the “cut- off ” for hy­per­ten­sion ( high blood pres­sure) from 140/ 90 to 130/ 80. This in­stantly made mil­lions of Amer­i­cans “el­i­gi­ble” for drug ther­apy. The ev­i­dence upon which the rec­om­men­da­tion for a lower cut- off for “high” blood pres­sure is murky, be­cause no sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nifi - cant benefi t was found for all- cause mor­tal­ity, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, or heart or kid­ney dis­ease when treat­ing blood pres­sure more ag­gres­sively. The ra­tio­nale of the heart as­so­ci­a­tions is “pre­ven­tive,” but car­diac med­i­ca­tions them­selves are not be­nign— up to 40 per­cent of pa­tients on car­diac med­i­ca­tion suff er side eff ects in­clud­ing faint­ing or fall­ing, electrolyte ab­nor­mal­i­ties, fa­tigue, weight gain, mus­cle aches, kid­ney da­m­age, and even acute kid­ney fail­ure.

Blood pres­sure is a dy­namic mea­sure­ment ( it changes de­pend­ing on cir­cum­stances), so a sin­gle read­ing shouldn’t be the ba­sis for mak­ing a di­ag­no­sis of hy­per­ten­sion. It’s im­per­a­tive to sit qui­etly for at least 2 min­utes be­fore tak­ing your blood pres­sure. It’s much bet­ter to mon­i­tor your blood pres­sure at home, be­cause even a visit to the doc­tor can be stress­ful enough to raise it. I have a loaner cuff in my offi ce for this pur­pose. When a pa­tient’s pres­sure is high in the offi ce, I send them home with a cuff and ask them to take 10 read­ings in 5– 7 days at diff er­ent times of day, and then report their re­sults back to me. This is a much more ac­cu­rate way to gauge over­all blood pres­sure.

Life­style In­ter­ven­tions

Hy­per­ten­sion isn’t re­ally a dis­ease; it’s a symp­tom of sub­op­ti­mal health. Check out en­vi­ron­men­tal causes fi rst: caff eine, al­co­hol, and food al­ler­gens can all raise blood pres­sure. Other causes of high blood pres­sure that need to be as­sessed in­clude kid­ney dis­ease, nar­row­ing of ma­jor blood ves­sels around the heart, ex­ces­sive se­cre­tion of adren­a­line, min­eral im­bal­ances in the blood, sleep ap­nea, and thy­roid hy­per­func­tion ( Graves dis­ease).

Hy­per­ten­sion can al­most al­ways be man­aged, or at least im­proved, with life­style con­sid­er­a­tions. First off , if you smoke, stop. Pe­riod. Next, ex­er­cise daily. It’s far bet­ter to walk briskly for a halfhour each day than to be a week­end war­rior. Find some kind of move­ment that you en­joy and can work into a daily rou­tine. Ac­tiv­ity low­ers stress hor­mones, re­leases body ten­sion, and re­duces sodium lev­els through sweat. It also helps re­duce and main­tain weight— even a few ex­tra pounds can have a pro­found eff ect on blood pres­sure. So fi nd a food plan that keeps you sat­isfi ed, yet mov­ing toward an op­ti­mal weight.

Many ( but not all) folks with hy­per­ten­sion get re­lief with a low- salt diet.

Canned soups and pro­cessed meats are the big­gest cul­prits for “hid­den” sodium. If you have high blood pres­sure, fig­ure out if salt is a prob­lem for you.

One of my fa­vorite naturopathic life­style habits is con­trast hy­drother­apy. Al­ter­nat­ing hot and cold, al­ways end­ing on cold, is in­cred­i­bly heal­ing for many hu­man ail­ments. Take a hot shower un­til you’re heated through and al­most limp, then quickly change the tem­per­a­ture to as cool as you can stand. Try to do this ev­ery time you bathe. You will grow to love the in­vig­o­rat­ing cold rush, which stim­u­lates cir­cu­la­tion so that the blood is mov­ing, not con­gested. This will help cre­ate an op­ti­mal blood pres­sure.

Sup­ple­ment Strate­gies

Vi­ta­min K ( 500 mcg daily) is a po­tent anti- hy­per­ten­sive and car­diac pro­tec­tant. Foods high in vi­ta­min K in­clude turnip greens, broc­coli, cab­bage, spinach, wa­ter­cress, and as­para­gus, as well as dairy prod­ucts from grass- fed an­i­mals. The chloro­phyll in grass con­verts to vi­ta­min K in the belly of the happy beasts. This doesn’t hap­pen with fac­to­ry­farmed, corn- fed cows.

Some stud­ies have shown that Coen­zyme Q10 ( 100– 300 mg daily) markedly de­creases blood pres­sure, es­pe­cially with el­e­vated sys­tolic num­bers. It can take 1– 4 months of reg­u­lar use to pro­duce re­sults.

The most po­tent and re­li­able herbal medicine to re­duce high blood pres­sure is In­dian snake­root ( Rau­volfia ser­pentina). Work with a qual­i­fied naturopathic physi­cian or well- trained herbal­ist be­fore try­ing this Ayurvedic in­ter­ven­tion, as high doses can cause de­pres­sion, among other side ef­fects. But when used prop­erly, this an­cient rem­edy has been shown to be highly ef­fec­tive in man­ag­ing blood pres­sure.

Shave and a Hair Cut

Some fas­ci­nat­ing lit­er­a­ture has emerged around the bar­ber- shop ap­proach to man­ag­ing hy­per­ten­sion. AfricanAmer­i­can men com­prise the high­est risk group for pre­ma­ture car­dio­vas­cu­lar death in the U. S. Black- owned bar­ber shops play a cen­tral role in AfricanAmer­i­can pub­lic life, be­cause the in­ti­macy and easy con­ver­sa­tion en­cour­ages both con­fi­den­tial­ity and com­pan­ion­ship. Black bar­bers be­came en­gaged in re­duc­ing the risk of death re­lated to hy­per­ten­sion sev­eral decades ago by dis­cussing the is­sue with their cus­tomers, and it’s pay­ing off. This of­fers a con­trast to the clin­i­cal set­ting of a med­i­cal of­fice, the mere thought of which can cause a blood pres­sure spike.


Emily A. Kane, ND,LAc, has a pri­vate naturopathic prac­tice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her hus­band and daugh­ter. She is the au­thor of two books on nat­u­ral health, in­clud­ing Man­ag­ing Menopause Nat­u­rally. Visit her on­line at dremi­lykane. com.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.