About 60% of American adults have prehypertension (diastolic above 81-90) or hypertension (diastolic above 90).
Why is there concern over high blood pressure? When blood is pumped from your heart, normally it travels through healthy, supple arteries. With hypertension, the force on arterial walls is abnormally increased. Over time, this leads to stiffening of arterial walls, further increasing blood pressure and leading to vascular damage. Your risk increases for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, aneurysms, and retinal disease… without you even knowing!
It is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly. You can buy an inexpensive automatic or manual blood pressure cuff online, at WalMart or locally at Mountain View Medical Supplies (Park City).
The most common form of hypertension has been labeled as “essential”, suggesting an unknown cause. However, modern lifestyle factors such as poor nutritional choices, stress, inadequate exercise, abnormal BMI, etc. are really the causes. These root causes should not be overlooked by just taking prescription drugs (a leading pharmaceutical company boasts Norvasc as the fourth biggest revenue-generating drug world-wide). Lifestyle changes address the causes, often making medications unnecessary.
|Anti-hypertensive Drugs||Most Common Side Effects|
|Diuretics: HCTZ (Hydrochlorothiazide), Lasix (Furosemide), Aldactone (Spironolactone), Dyazide (HCTZ and Triamterene)||pancreatitis, jaundice, anorexia, oral & gastric irritation, reduced potassium, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lightheadedness|
|Beta Blockers: Toprol (Metoprolol), Inderal (Propanolol), Tenormin (Atenolol), Coreg (Carvedilol), Bystolic (Nebivolol)||fatigue, depression, slow heart rate, congestive heart failure, dizziness, insomnia|
|ACE Inhibitors/ARBs: Lisinopril, Altace (Ramipril), Accupril (Quinapril), Cozaar (Losartan), Benicar (Olmesartan), Diovan (Valsartan), Avapro (Irbesartan)||fluid retention, dizziness, dangerously high levels of potassium, dry cough (Less common with ARBs)|
|Calcium Channel Blockers: Norvasc (Amlodipine), Cardizem (Diltiazem), Verelan (Verapamil)||dizziness, headache, fluid retention, constipation, slow heart rate, runny nose|
As Hippocrates said, “Food is the best medicine…”. Many processed and packaged foods lack nutrition and add sodium. Sodium increases blood volume, which increases blood pressure. Deficiencies in calcium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, E may contribute to hypertension. Sufficient potassium is especially important, and adopting a DASH II diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) significantly reduces high blood pressure.
- Season your food with pepper, basil, curry, rosemary, nutmeg, or Mrs. Dash spices instead of salt.
- Eat 7-11 servings of vegetables per day (watch the sodium content of vegetable juice!)
- Replace saturated fats with fats from olive, flax or canola oils …and ELIMINATE trans fats!
- Once your diet is on track, consider supplements such as Nutriex, garlic, Co-Enzyme Q-10, or Omega-3s.
Healthy Foods to Enjoy (often high in potassium)
- Green Tea
- Guava, apricots, mango
- Seaweed, eg. wakame
- Avocado, mushrooms
- Raw almonds
- Green Tea
- Bananas, pears, pineapple
- Turkey/chicken breast
- Salmon and tuna
- Leafy greens
- Whole grain, low-sugar cereals & bread
- Beans, seeds, legumes
- Soy products
- Skim milk, kefir, yogurt
- Potatoes, carrots, celery
Safe Exercise Daily
Exercise increases the heart’s efficiency and vascular tone. Going for a 10-20 minute walk can lower blood pressure for up to 11 hours! Achieve at least 30-45 minutes of continuous exercise per day (should include cardio) and aim to be active at least 2 hours every day. Take the stairs, walk on your lunch break, explore hiking trails—the options are endless!
Progressive BMI Improvement
Improving your BMI to a healthier number can make positive changes on your blood pressure. Loosing just 10-20 pounds can bring blood pressure down to normal levels.
Nicotine, Caffeine, and Alcohol Weaning
Caffeine is a stimulant—it makes your arteries stiffer and increases your heart rate. Switch to decaf or green tea to improve health and lower blood pressure. Also, be aware that some medications may contain caffeine.
All forms of tobacco contribute to hypertension. Seek help in quitting with resources like quitassist.com, nicotine patches or nicotine gum. Having support will help you be successful in quitting.
It may be best to eliminate alcohol completely if you have hypertension because alcohol can increase the severity of hypertension, decrease the effectiveness of drugs, and interfere with magnesium and zinc absorption (minerals important in lowering blood pressure).
Stress increases heart rate and vascular resistance and may adversely influence blood viscosity and blood clotting. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Avoid over-stimulation. Include 20 minutes of stress reducing activities such as meditation, progressive relaxation (focusing on individual body parts from foot to head), yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, aromatherapy, listening to music, etc.