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Blood Pressure (High)

High blood pressure or hypertension...

Hypertension is an elevation of blood pressure and common symptoms include headaches, a fullness in the head, ringing in the ears, fatigue, nose bleeds & irritability. The causes range from kidney & adrenal problems to dietary & environmental factors.

Although hypertension is usually asymptomatic for the first 10 to 20 years, it slowly but surely strains the heart and damages the arteries. For this reason, hypertension is often called the "silent killer". Prolonged hypertension accelerates arteriosclerosis and is the major cause of heart failure, vascular disease, renal failure, and stroke.

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What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted, as the heart pumps the blood through the arteries and the blood presses against the walls of the blood vessels. Those who suffer from hypertension have abnormally high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is represented by circulating blood volume, peripheral vascular resistance, efficiency of the heart as a pump, viscosity of the blood and elasticity of arterial walls.

There are two blood pressure readings:

(1) Systolic pressure refers to the pressure exerted by the blood while the heart is pumping; this reading will indicate blood pressure at its highest.

(2) Diastolic pressure reads the blood pressure when the heart is at rest, in between beats, when the blood pressure is at its lowest.

A normal blood pressure reads 120 / 80, with 110 / 70 to 140 / 90 being within the normal range. Any pressure over 180 / 115 is severely elevated.

What are the common symptoms of high blood pressure?

Hypertension, an elevation of blood pressure, is an incredibly common problem these days. Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • A fullness in the head
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue
  • Nosebleeds
  • Irritability

What causes high blood pressure?

The causes of an elevated blood pressure reading range from renal, adrenal and dietary / environmental to other causes of unknown origin. Some theories have been proposed to explain the possible causes of unexplainable hypertension, but no conclusive evidence has pointed to an accepted cause/s.

Atherosclerosis - how it affects blood pressure...

The complications associated with atherosclerosis are common precursors of hypertension. Because the arteries are obstructed by fatty streaks in atherosclerosis, circulation of blood through the vessels becomes difficult. When the arteries harden and constrict in arteriosclerosis, the blood is forced through a narrower passageway. As a result, blood pressure becomes elevated.

High Blood Fats cause high blood pressure...

Hyperlipidemia or poor blood viscosity is a result of high concentrations of triglycerides in the blood, a significant cause of hypertension and insulin resistance.

Physical exertion & Emotional Stress affect our blood pressure...

Blood pressure can temporarily rise after physical activity or emotional tension, but after a period of relaxation, this will return to normal. An abnormal condition arises when the pressure does not return to normal and remains high.

Lifestyle factors may contribute to high blood pressure...

Even though there is no single known cause for hypertension, it is known that lifestyle is a major contributor, with too much alcohol (binge drinking elevates blood pressure considerably), dietary fat, body fat, salt, stress and not enough fibre or exercise, potassium, calcium and magnesium affecting blood pressure.

Other disorders also affect blood pressure...

In approximately 10% of the cases of hypertension, a physical disorder such as a kidney infection, an obstruction of an artery of the kidney, diabetes, a disorder of the adrenal gland, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea or a constriction of the aorta of the heart is present. Hypertension of these origins can usually be corrected. However, exact reasons for hypertension in most people may be difficult to find.

Chronic hypertension can be caused by an infection such as Chlamydia pneumoniae (not to be confused with Chlamydia trachomatis). Chlamydophila pneumoniae is a species of Chlamydophila, an obligate intracellular bactera that infects humans and is a major cause of pneumonia. This can happen due to the fac that is can cause inflammation in blood vessels, which causes elevated blood pressure and encourages the formation of plaque. Approximately 1/3 of patients with hypertension have antibodies to this bacterium.

Other factors that increase blood pressure are:

  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Salt
  • Excessive use of stimulants such as coffee and tea
  • Drugs
  • Oral contraceptives

The impact of stress on blood pressure

Stress in an important factor to be considered in hypertension. When we are stressed, we release adrenalin, which reacts with the sympathetic nerve terminals to increase vasoconstriction.

Many people drive themselves too hard and consequently become hypertensive. These people must learn to avoid stressful conditions by changing their lifestyle. They should take regular, unhurried meals, try to avoid worry, allow themselves plenty of leisure time, take vacations and generally use moderation in all things.

The importance of diet in high blood pressure...

Diet is very important in hypertension and should be the first choice for treatment of the condition.

A vegetarian diet, full of fruits and vegetables and grains has been found to be most helpful for lowering or eliminating high blood pressure. If this is not an option, animal fat must be severely reduced.

Sugar and salt must be reduced. Sodium is a primary contributor of hypertension, because it causes fluid retention, which adds additional stress to the heart and circulatory system.

Fibre needs to be increased.

Potassium foods, such as fish, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches and oranges should be consumed.

Calcium foods are needed, like almonds, sesame seeds or low-fat dairy, soymilk, seaweeds, spinach and broccoli.

Magnesium foods should also be eaten and may be found in cooked dried beans and peas, dark leafy vegetables, milk, soybeans, seafood, corn millet and pine nuts.

Helpful nutrients in hypertension...

Nutrients may be helpful. Increasing the potassium, calcium and vitamin D intake will cause the body to excrete more sodium. Alterations in calcium and potassium metabolism may be a primary factor in the development of hypertension. Potassium and calcium help regulate fluid retention.

Vitamin C can maintain the elasticity of the blood vessels, which are strained by the greater pressure placed on them by hypertension, while lower blood levels of vitamin C are associated with higher blood pressure.

Bioflavonoids can reduce brain haemorrhages that leads to death in hypertensives.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) may reduce blood pressure.

Aspirin may prevent a form of high blood pressure in pregnant women, called pre-eclampsia.

Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients in high blood pressure...

However, magnesium may be the most important nutrient. Magnesium is a potent vasodilator because of its ability to displace calcium from the smooth muscle surfaces. With low levels of magnesium, there is an increased flow of calcium into vascular muscle cells, which increases contractility and potentiates the constrictor effects of suppressor substances.

Reversible hypertension is a clinical finding in hypomagnesemia and magnesium depletion; 50% of magnesium-depleted patients are hypertensive and their blood pressure returns to normal with supplementation.

Taurine and Vitamin E and high blood pressure...

Taurine is also considered essential to hypertensives. Taurine is the facilitator in the metabolism of the essential nutrients, calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium, reducing blood pressure through the suppression of a feedback system.

Vitamin E is also beneficial, as this promotes blood viscosity and modulates the hormonal control of smooth muscle inflammation.

For those with hard to control blood pressure, the use of aspirin is not advised, as it may cause a stroke.

Foods have a significant effect over blood pressure...

Avoid foods that contain 'amines', such as aged cheeses, aged meats, anchovies, avocados, smoked meats, chocolate and dairy products.

It is also desirable to avoid all alcohol, coffee, caffeine containing beverages and tobacco.

Eat a diet rich in fish oils, linseeds, oats, fruits and vegetables.

Regular, gentle exercise and weight loss for those who need it are ESSENTIAL in preventing and treating high blood pressure, because they keep the circulatory system healthy. Walking, slow swimming and casual cycling are good choices.

Promoting a tranquil outlook on life is of primary importance in reducing and preventing hypertension. Yoga will relax, stretch and improve overall health and well being.

Herbs to assist with high blood pressure

Black cohosh
Suma tea
Chrysanthemum flowers
Lavender bath for relaxation

At Ideal Health we stock a number of supplements that may be very helpful:

Garlicin HC - This supplement contains the herbs garlic, hawthorn berries and cayenne pepper. This formula supports the heart and circulatory system. The ingredients in Garlicin HC lower cholesterol, increase heart strength, increase vascular elasticity and lower blood pressure.

HeartCare - We also stock the herbal formulas called Heartcare which contains hawthorn. This herb is known as the "heart herb". Hawthorn dilates blood vessels and increases the blood supply to the heart. It normalises heart beat rate. It is excellent for a feeble heart, valvular insufficiency and irregular pulse. It is a valuable remedy for angina pectoris or inflammation of the heart muscle.

Cayenne Pepper - This herb is specific for the circulatory system. It is a circulatory stimulant and a herb that feeds the necessary elements into the cell structures of the arteries, veins and capillaries, so that they regain elasticity and so that blood pressure returns to normal. Cayenne equalises blood pressure, influencing the heart immediately.

We stock many different cayenne formulas, such as:
Cayenne Garlic
Cayenne Garlic & Hawthorn
Cayenne 100,000
CapsiCool (good for the first time user)

Lecithin - Lecithin helps emulsify and break up cholesterol in the body and allows it to pass through the arterial walls, helping prevent atherosclerosis. This makes it an especially important nutrient for the elderly. It has also been found to increase immunity against virus infections and to prevent the formation of gall stones.

If your cholesterol is also high, ask about Cholesterol Manager, which uses Herbs + Nutrients including Policosanol for helping to lower cholesterol levels.

Magnesium - A magnesium deficiency is thought to be closely related to coronary heart disease. An inadequate supply of this mineral may result in the formation of clots in the heart.

Calcium - Low levels of calcium increase the risk of hypertension and a regular intake may counteract the effects of sodium in the development of hypertension. A severe deficiency can lead to an abnormal heart beat. By lowering cholesterol, calcium is thought to be beneficial in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders. Up to 1500mg have lowered blood pressure in people with or without hypertension and is thought to do so because of the condition of the smooth muscles that surround the blood vessels.

Coenzyme Q10 - In Japan, this vitamin-like substance is used in the treatment of heart disease and high blood pressure. As well as this, it prevents additional damage to the heart, which may have been caused by a lack of oxygen to this muscle.

Deficiencies of this substance have been reported in a wide range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and periodontal disease, with great success when used for cardiovascular disease, angina, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy and hypertension.

We stock a number of different CoQ10 products, of varying strength. Ask for a list of these to determine which would be best for you.

Essential Fatty Acids - EFAs have desirable effects in many disorders. They reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and help arteriosclerosis. They are needed in the treatment of coronary heart disease and to minimise blood clot formation. Fish oil is particularly beneficial and can be purchased as Hi Strength Fish Oil, Nordic Omega 3, Nordic Ultimate Omega.

Note: The recommendations and suggestions are general guidelines only and individual dosages may vary. In all cases of acute illness and hypertension, you should seek the advice of a registered health practitioner. Information extracted from 'The Physicians Handbook of Clinical Nutrition' by H. Osiecki and 'Nutritional Influences on Illness' by M. Werbach.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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