If you’ve ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure, I bet your doctor had his prescription pad out faster than a gunfighter drawing his pistol.
And here’s the reason-most docs don’t want to spend the time it would take to learn what’s causing your hypertension. I’m not kidding-mainstream medicine claims that over 90 percent of all cases of high blood pressure are “essential,” which is a bizarre medical term for “we don’t know the cause.”
In my experience, it’s not that doctors don’t know or can’t find out-it’s that finding out will take more time and effort than they’re willing to spend.
So doctors are literally trained to throw up their hands and put you on a drug for the rest of your life (as if your blood pressure problem is due to some sort of drug deficiency). In fact, they’ll put you on…
Drugs so terrible you wouldn’t wish them on your enemies!
Docs will usually start you off with a cheap first-line drug called hyrdochlorothiazide (HCTZ). HCTZ is a water pill that helps your body absorb less salt. But that’s not all it does-is can cause dry mouth, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, nausea, stomach pain, clay-colored stools, and dark urine, to name a few. And get this-HCTZ actually hastens the onset of diabetes, probably because it depletes your body of magnesium.
But even if you try to avoid the prescription pill carousel, you might find that some of the most popular recommendations for lowering blood pressure aren’t all that effective either.
Why most blood pressure advice isn’t worth its salt
I remember one patient, Tom, who was 52 years old and in reasonably good shape, except for his high blood pressure. He didn’t want to take HCTZ, so, like a lot of people, he tried to get his blood pressure under control by lowering salt.
Lowering your salt intake isn’t a bad idea but don’t expect it to be the silver bullet that lowers your blood pressure. Recent research tells us that only about 20 percent of the population is salt-sensitive, where salt would have a significant impact on their blood pressure. So unless you’re consuming loads of processed foods and making heavy use of a salt shaker, reducing salt is unlikely to fix the problem.
But, somehow, cutting salt consumption remains the number-one recommendation doctors dole out for people with high blood pressure even though, in all likelihood, it won’t change a thing! My recommendation-keep your salt consumption to about 2 grams a day (preferably sea salt), and you should be fine.
If you’ve been told to lose some weight and exercise to lower your blood pressure, that’s pretty good advice. Tom started taking brisk walks with plenty of arm swing 45-60 minutes a day, at least five days a week. He dropped 10 pounds, got into better shape, and did see his blood pressure drop-but still not to a desirable level.
And, really, prescription drugs, exercise, and reducing your alcohol and salt consumption are all that mainstream medicine has to offer for lowering blood pressure. It’s no wonder so many people never get their blood pressure under control!
Fortunately, alternative medicine has taken a more thorough and holistic approach to identify the causes of and curing high blood pressure. We’ve got a little more in our toolkits than typical mainstream M.D.’s, and you can use these tools to get hypertension out of your life.
The vitamin deficiency that sends your blood pressure skyrocketing
You’ve heard me talk before about how most Americans are deficient in vitamin D and how this deficiency can unleash a barrage of health problems. High blood pressure is one of them.
One important function of vitamin D is to normalize renin levels. Renin regulates salt and fluid balance, key determinants of blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high and your vitamin D levels are low, getting more vitamin D may help lower your pressure. It may be all you need, as it was for one of my patients, a 66-year-old woman who lowered her blood pressure by taking vitamin D supplements and getting a little more sun during the warm months.
A high renin level of over 0.6 ng/ml (which your doc can determine from a simple blood test) might require vitamin D3 therapy, even if you’re getting enough vitamin D.
If your renin levels are very low, your doc may recommend diuretics and calcium channel blockers, two drug types. But drugs are by no means your only option. In fact, you may even be able to…
Replace prescription drugs with celery!
Celery is a potent diuretic-try a few stalks (4-6 would be a typical daily dose) or a glass of celery juice, and you’ll soon see what I mean. Or you can try celery seed extract in capsule form.
Celery seed has a long history of use in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition for water retention, calming nerves, muscle cramps, arthritis, and gout. Nature’s Way, Natural Factors, Swanson, and Puritans Pride all offer reliable celery seed products.
Celery seed is not the only natural tool you can use to bring your blood pressure under control. Here are five other natural cures that I’ve used with good results:
Grape seed extract: This helps relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. New Chapter offers a remedy called Blood Pressure Take Care that also includes Hawthorn, which has been used for decades in Europe to treat high blood pressure.
Coenzyme Q10: Try 100 to 300 mg daily. CoQ10 also supports an ailing heart and is a must if you happen to be on cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs like Lipitor, which depletes your CoQ10 levels. Make sure you take a gel cap for optimal absorption.
Garlic: Try the equivalent of one clove a day. Cook with garlic or get it in a supplement from New Chapter, Mediherb, Kyolic, Garlique, or Garlicin.
Taurine: This amino acid is used by savvy doctors to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and anxiety. For blood pressure, it helps regulate fluid balance and normalize aldosterone levels, so it may be useful in people with primary hyperaldosteronism. Take 2-4 grams daily, split into two doses.
Bonito Fish peptide: This is a fish-derived protein that has been used with a lot of success in Japan. It’s available in a product called Vasotensin from Metagenics.
In addition to these supplements, there are plenty of other treatment strategies patients have used with success. In fact, here are three questions I get all the time as people look to make lifestyle changes to improve their blood pressure.
Question #1: Will eating more vegetables really make a difference?
Quite possibly. The magnesium and potassium found in a variety of plant-based foods help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. If you’re not getting enough magnesium (which you can find out from a red blood cell magnesium test), eat more nuts and leafy green vegetables, or add a magnesium supplement. Avoid magnesium oxide, which is poorly absorbed and will just cause diarrhea. Instead, use magnesium citrate, orotate, malate, or fumarate: 400-1200 mg daily. Magnesium is a good calmative, so take it in the evening to promote better sleep.
Question #2: Is there such a thing as a “chocolate cure” for high blood pressure?
In a word, yes. Even small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate (< 1 oz) have been shown to drop blood pressure by a few points. I don’t recommend dark chocolate as a first-line therapy for blood pressure-it is loaded with calories. Instead, enjoy small amounts a few times a week as part of your overall blood pressure program.
Question #3: How big a role does stress really play in raising blood pressure?
I get this question all the time because people who think they live low-stress lives will sometimes end up with high blood pressure. On the other hand, people who are constantly stressed may find their blood pressure isn’t a problem.
The truth is, each of us handles stress a bit differently. But, as a rule, stress can have a tremendous effect on your blood pressure. The patient I talked about earlier, Tom, got great results from RESPeRATE (see www.resperate.com), an FDA-approved device that directs you to breathe slowly and rhythmically, reducing stress.
I’ve seen other patients get great results through regular yoga that includes deep breathing, called Pranayama. For others, biofeedback may be the answer. Deep breathing training in the Buteyko Method or Yogic tradition also can be effective (search online for training opportunities).
Finally, both acupuncture and various forms of massage can be useful parts of an overall blood pressure management program. The key here is to connect with the therapy that personally appeals to you, then stick with it for at least three months.
Dr. Alan Inglis
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