High blood pressure (hypertension) is an epidemic in the US. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 33.5% of adults high blood pressure. Your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and brain are injured by chronic high blood pressure and the condition increases the risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke or TIA, aneurysm, kidney failure, dementia, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, sleep apnea, and bone and muscle loss.
Hypertension – Primary or Secondary?
The translation of a doctor’s diagnosis of essential or primary hypertension is “Your blood pressure is high and I don’t know why!” This will typically leads to medication to manage the blood pressure – not the best long-term option. Medication usually leads to partial resolution and the side effects can compromise quality of life. Though medication is appropriate if the cause for high blood pressure can’t be determined, the ideal solution is direct diagnosis and treatment of the cause of the blood pressure problem.
Secondary causes for high blood pressure related to specific diseases include kidney disease, neurological disorders, adrenal diseases and tumors, hyperparathyroidism, pituitary tumors, and hyper and hypothyroidism.
How High Blood Pressure Drugs Work
Blood pressure drugs work by decreasing blood volume (diuretics), relaxing the heart muscles and blood vessel walls by decreasing tone of the sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, nervous system (beta-blockers), balancing the ratio of electrolytes in the heart and blood vessel (calcium channel blockers), or by blocking the production or effects of a angiotensin, a hormone produced by your liver (ACE inhibitors/angiotensin II receptor blockers).
What’s Really Going On?
Refined diet. Stress. No exercise. Not enough sleep. These are so prevalent and so obvious and the peer-reviewed evidenced is there including much (most?) of it in PubMed!
Blood volume is increased by factors that increase sodium and chloride retention – stress and diet are common here, as is systemic inflammation (diet, environmental stress, stress, and a helping of genetics). Stress management and a whole food plant based diet – lots of veggies! – increases magnesium and potassium (grossly deficient in the standard American diet).
Balancing the nervous system comes from simplifying and slowing down our hectic lives, getting more sleep and more exercise, being more grounded and present, and increasing certain nutrients from a whole food diet (magnesium, potassium, B vitamins). Chiropractic here is often key!
Balancing electrolytes comes back to diet and stress – adrenal hormones regulate electrolytes. Like momma said, “Eat your veggies!” Angiotensin? Less liver stress, better hydration, and get your olive oil (sometimes other things, too).
In functional medicine other factors can prove important – iron levels, blood viscosity, inflammation, liver function…high blood pressure in most cases is a mystery that begs for the answer to the question, “Why is that?”
Dr. Force will be lecturing on high blood pressure Wednesday, June 20th in Ashland.