High Blood Pressure

Written by: Dr. Steve Windley, MD

HIGH RESOLUTION Adjusting your lifestyle to lower unhealthy blood pressure. High blood pressure is quickly becoming one of the most common chronic illnesses in western society. It’s a condition that can cause significant issues throughout the body if not treated. Fortunately for most patients, high blood pressure is extremely treatable and preventable. Changes in lifestyle and simple nutrients can have a profound effect on this popular plague.       In medical school, doctors are taught to think of blood pressure, or hypertension, in two broad classes. The first has specific causes, including trouble with the arteries that feed the kidneys, sleep apnea and hormone-producing tumors. In these cases, high blood pressure is a result of another problem and the root issue must be treated to fix symptoms. The second does not have a distinct cause. This is where most patients in developed nations fall. These patients may face obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet and stress, all of which contribute to elevated blood pressure. To treat this condition, one must identify any deficiencies in their lifestyle that could be contributing to poor health.       Adjustments in diet are easy for those wanting to improve blood pressure. Start with more fruits and vegetables, at least five servings of each a day. Try to buy more organic varieties when available. Also, include healthy proteins like fish, chicken, eggs and beans. With any type of animal-based protein, look for naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic-free varieties. Regular and diet soft drinks need to be decreased and ideally removed from the diet. Chocolate lovers can indulge, as nutrients in dark chocolate called flavonoids have shown some benefit in health parameters including blood pressure [1]. This treat should be enjoyed in moderation, and contain at least 70 percent cocoa.       No lifestyle prescription for hypertension would be complete without exercise . It is a tremendous way to strengthen the heart and help the blood vessels relax.       Supplements can also contribute to optimal results. CoQ10 will lower blood pressure some, while also aiding the muscles, brain, heart and kidneys [4]. It is an extremely versatile nutrient that is tolerated very well. For those on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, body stores of CoQ10 are depleted, making it a must-take supplement. Like CoQ10, magnesium is needed throughout the body, providing help not only for blood pressure, but for the muscles, bowels and headaches.       Patients with high blood pressure should also consider vitamin D , which continues to prove supportive for bone, heart and brain health. Recent studies are bringing to light vitamin D’s positive link to high blood pressure [2, 3]. Patients with a lifestyle, work schedule or illness that hinders year-long exposure to sunlight should consider vitamin D. Blood levels can be easily checked through a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, with a goal level of approximately 50-80 ng/mL.       Garlic has a small, but noticeable, effect on several cardiovascular factors, including blood

pressure [6, 7]. This change can be up to 11 points for some patients, which may be enough to lessen the need for more aggressive medication. Garlic is tolerated well, but those on blood thinners should observe caution, as it can have a blood thinning effect like aspirin. F ish oils remain one of the most helpful nutrients available. Like CoQ10, magnesium and vitamin D, fish oils are very profitable throughout the body. The benefits of fish oil supplements to high blood pressure are modest [8, 9]. Patients should hope for a 5 point drop. This is a rather small change but because of its many other benefits, fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids) make a nice adjunct for blood pressure and heart health treatments. Patients taking blood thinners like warfarin may need to be careful while taking fish oils. It has a mild blood thinning effect, so work with a physician. - CoQ10 . Typical dosage is 100-200 mg, with higher doses yielding higher results. Take with food. - Magnesium . 300-500 mg a day, in divided doses, with food. This nutrient is generally well tolerated, but can result in loose stools if overused. - Vitamin D . Dosage varies depending on blood test levels, but is typically 1,000-3,000 IU a day, taken with food. - Fish oils . 1,500-2,000 mg of the EPA plus DHA. Add the two numbers together to determine the amount needed. The bottle should indicate that the product was tested for heavy metals like mercury. - Garlic . 300-400 mg taken twice a day, with food.

The goal for healthy blood pressure is to keep the top number (systolic pressure) under 120 and the bottom number (diastolic pressure) under 85. Numbers in the 120-139/85-90 range are considered prehypertensive, and should prompt an evaluation of lifestyle factors. Patients with certain risk factors, such as diabetes, previous stroke or tobacco use, may need more aggressive blood pressure balancing methods. References: 1. Grassi, D. (2005). Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension, 46(2):398-405. 2. Kristal–Boneh, E. (1997). Association of calcitriol and blood pressure in normotensive men. Hypertension, 30(5):1289-94. 3. Pfeifer, M. (2001). Effects of a short-term vitamin D(3) and calcium supplementation on blood pressure and parathyroid hormone levels in elderly women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 86(4):1633-7. 4. Langsjoen, P. (1994). Treatment of essential hypertension with coenzyme Q10. Mol Aspects Med, 15 Suppl:S265-72. 5. Auer, W., Eiber, A., Hertkorn, E., et al. (1990). Hypertension and hyperlipidaemia: Garlic helps in mild cases. Br J Clin Pract, 69:3-6. 6. Silagy, C.A. (1994). A meta-analysis of the effect of garlic on blood pressure. J


Hypertens,12(4):463-8. 7. Von, E.M., Brunner, H., Haegeli, A., et al. (1994). Hawthorn/passion flower extract and improvement in physical exercise capacity of patients with dyspnoea class II of NYHA functional classification. Acta Ther, 20(1–2):47-66. 8. Morris, M.C., Sacks, F., Rosner, B. (1993). Does fish oil lower blood pressure? A meta-analysis of controlled trials. Circulation, 88:523–33. 9. Appel, L.J., Miller, E.R. III, Seidler, A.J., Whelton, P.K. (1993). Does supplementation of diet with ‘fish oil’ reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Arch Intern Med, 153:1429–38.




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