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High Blood Pressure – Emotional Causes and Natural Treatment

high blood pressure

Natural Blood Pressure Recommendations

In this article we are going to look at some of the best natural medicines for treating blood pressure, but first let us look at little more closely at the emotional connection and BP. I have said previously, that the most common type of BP is called “essential hypertension”, and basically the cause is unknown. Although the name given to the disease makes it sound as though it is somehow “essential” to the person and “incurable”, I do not feel this is necessarily so in many a BP case – you just have to establish the cause. Many cases of essential hypertension I have seen over the years have responded extremely well to natural medicine, and this is one area where professional natural therapists really can come into their own – ameliorating the so called “diseases of modern civilization” such as BP, diabetes and cancer prevention.
Hypertension is a condition in which the diameter of the blood vessels all over the body is made smaller by contraction of the muscles in the walls of these vessels. But the elevated pressure does not come on all at once, nor does it simply become elevated and stay permanently high. On different visits to your doctor’s office, your blood pressure is sometimes elevated and sometimes not. I have though at times about the term “hyper-tension”, and have found that an elevation of blood pressure occurs often with situations of tension or stress occurring in a person’s life. It is common for a person’s blood pressure to go up when he or she is excited or nervous, and nervousness often occurs upon physical examination. And tell me honestly, don’t you feel a little nervous sitting in a doctor’s office? Let’s now take a look at emotions and BP.

BP: the “Emo” Connection

When my daughter was a teenager, she often use to use the term “emo”, which apparently is supposed to mean emotional. I often tell my patients with a known history of BP to take their own blood pressure at home, so reliably does it go up under the stress of being in the doctor’s office. You smell the medical office environment, you see the white coats, you get tense – and the stress is often subconscious. I think it probably stems back to stress you experienced (like having an injection, or some stitches, etc) as a youngster in the doctor’s office. Emotions rule – remember when you were waiting for your driving instructor to come and fetch you to do your driving test? I’ll bet your BP was elevated – we call this anticipatory anxiety, just like in the doctor’s office before your BP is taken. In fact, one of the first treatments some doctors I personally know, give for BP a tranquilising or calming medication. This may well even be a script for Prozac®. for “depression”. By keeping a person with BP calm, the blood pressure elevations do not occur as frequently, and what is the point of just treating the high blood pressure symptomatically, without treating the cause long-term?. As I have always maintained – treat the cause, not the symptom, and BP is no different.  And guys – how many of you can you relate to staying cool, calm, and collected when the pressure is on?  It probably comes as no news to most people that heart attacks and high blood pressure are closely associated with each other and also very much associated with the amount of tension in one’s life. And how many countless women have seen their husbands die tragically in such similar circumstances? People who live in a tense home situation or have stressful and very demanding jobs tend to have much more cardiac and high blood pressure disease than people in more relaxed daily surroundings.

Genetics and Blood Pressure

A person who has a genetic (family history) predisposition to develop BP problems, or who has had early warning symptoms, has a very important choice to make. That person cannot change his or her heredity, but can decide whether to continue to be highly strung, hurry from one appointment to another, road-rage, worry, and lose his or her temper. That person can begin, one by one, to eliminate these dangerous, even lethal, responses. My advice is that he or she learn to become a person who can choose to remain relaxed and calm even during stressful situations in spite of how uptight he or she may have been in the past. The person who follows this advice stands a far better chance of slowing any gradual increase in blood pressure and, perhaps more important, avoiding the emotional crises that may be the cause of the acute elevation in blood pressure leading ultimately to a heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, or kidney disease. Whereas it might be permissible for another person (with normal BP) to worry, get upset, or feel tense – for an individual with hypertension, it may be a heck of a lot more dangerous than actually walking on a broken leg!

Diuretic Drugs

Now, what happens if the tension or stress, causing the BP, is not eliminated by tranquilising drugs or antidepressants?. The blood pressure begins peaking more and more often, and you may be started on a diuretic, or water pill. You may be on a drug commonly prescribed called Bendroflurazide®.  The main function of this drug is to remove a certain amount of water from the body. It thus lowers the total volume present in your bloodstream, and through this, along with several other mechanisms, the symptoms of BP are reduced for awhile. But your trips to the bathroom are not, and my concern with diuretics is the loss of vital minerals like magnesium every time you pee. Ask somebody on a diuretic, and many will be quick to tell you how tired they get. When treatment with Bendroflurazide is intensive or continuous, periodic estimations of especially potassium should be carried out. I recommend patients to eat kumara and tomato paste, some of the highest potassium containing foods, if the are on the “Bendro”. This is particularly so if they have loose bowels or irritable bowel syndrome when they take this drug – a sign of K (potassium) depletion.
And still, in many cases the blood pressure soon begins to rise once again, and this time more vigorous methods of controlling it are used by your doctor. BP drugs may be used that have their effect on the kidneys or the nervous, circulatory, or hormone system. There are several classes of antihypertensive drugs – we covered them in part1. In some cases, the rise in your BP may even continue to the point that bad headaches (especially morning), insomnia, dizziness, floaters (black spots you see “floating”), nosebleeds, depression, brain problems or various kidney problems result. Imagine the blood having to flow through all of your blood vessels under pressure to reach the various organs of the body. It must then flow back through the veins to the heart to be pumped out again. As the muscles in the walls of the vessels begin to contract, it becomes more and more difficult for the blood to flow through them. Just like when your hose in the garden is kinked, the output of water decreases, so too is the volume of blood reaching various organs of your body reduced. In order to compensate for the reduced blood flow, your heart must pump even harder and harder. Imagine if you had to blow up a balloon through a small straw (your blood vessels under strain), you would have to blow much harder than someone blowing up a balloon with a garden hose in order to keep up with him or her. This increased work falls on the poor heart muscle. The heart now has to pump harder and harder with a smaller and smaller supply of blood to its own muscle – is it any wonder it fails?
You will see this situation commonly in people with angina pectoris (chest pain, worse on exertion).

A Case Study: Warren with angina

Warren came to see me a few years ago with chronic angina. Warren was 62 and could hardly walk from his front door to the car without some degree of pain in his chest. He was taking a “nitrolingual” spray, which helps to open the small blood vessels supplying oxygen to his coronary (heart) blood vessels. Warren refused completely (surgery for a “bypass” operation) – his choice. After a 6 month course of Hawthorn Berry (herbal medicine), some Magnesium, CoQ10, Taurine, Omega 3 and Vitamin E, we had a new man. Warren also found that he could sleep much better, and I routinely find that patients with BP problems are poor sleepers. A subsequent arteriogram found Warren to have NO more problems with his blocked artery. Who says that natural medicine is “not effective” with angina? The drug companies would like you to think so.

Chest pain may be caused by a heart that goes into spasm (partly because it is not able to keep up with the work it is being called on to do). The problem may actually become so bad that a portion of the heart muscle dies, leading to a myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack. This is why it is so important to see your doctor before you start an exercise program, particularly if you are over 40 yrs of age. I once had a patient suffer a fatal MI when he started to exercise vigorously several years ago who did not heed my advice, and I felt gutted that he did not. I am quite tough on people now in this similar situation, sorry, I have every right to be.

Natural Blood Pressure Management

It is unfair in the 21st century for a medical doctor to tell a patient that they should see “a real doctor” if the patient has BP, and avoid natural medicine. This has happened to me on several occasions. There are many highly trained and experienced naturopaths in NZ who are quite capable of helping patients with BP.  I know many colleagues throughout NZ, and I can refer you to them if you wish to contact me regarding natural BP management. Here is some good sensible BP treatment guidelines, but please, be sensible and work with your practitioner – medical or natural. BP is one condition best left to experts, and definitely not a case of “DIY” – your life is at stake.

Blood Pressure Diet

  • The diet: Should be low in refined sugar, fat, caffeine, and alcohol; high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Consumption of a vegetarian diet has been associated with lower blood pressure, compared with a diet containing red meat.  The Mediterranean diet is probably the best one.
  • Salt intake should be low-to-moderate; don’t stop salt – severe salt restriction may impair glucose tolerance and have other adverse effects. I always recommend a little Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt daily. Unbelievable but true, one patient I know ctually lowered her BP by adding a little salt to her diet, she was told to strictly avoid all salt. Sodium regulates the body’s water balance (by causing the retention of water) – and, sodium helps to maintain a normal balance of water between the body’s cells and surrounding fluids, so don’t just STOP eating salt, just be careful how much you have.
  • Consume garlic and onions daily – For example in one study, 40% of hypertensive subjects experienced a reduction of 20 mmHg or more in their BP after seven days of garlic consumption.
  • Consumption of oily fish (e.g., mackerel, salmon, tuna and cod) helps lower BP – but monitor the mercury levels every now & then by way of a Hair Analysis.
  • Work with food allergies if these perhaps may be an issue – this can be an amazing hidden source of BP problems for some.
  • I know there is a lot of hype about soy, but ingestion of soy milk (500 ml twice a day for 3 months) was associated with a marked reduction in systolic (-18.4 mm Hg) and diastolic (-15.9 mm Hg) blood pressure in one major study.
  • Got a sweet tooth? In one human study, after the ingestion of one dosage of Stevia, systolic BP fell by approximately 9.5% and usage of Stevia for 30 days caused a decrease in both systolic and diastolic BP. Like licorice? – forget it, it can increase BP.

Most Important Supplements in Blood Pressure

There is a lot of hype about all sorts of fancy potions for controlling BP, but good old calcium, magnesium and potassium work wonders for most people. Try them first – save your money. If your blood pressure does not decline after a month on calcium and magnesium alone, stop taking calcium and magnesium in higher doses (multivitamin is ok) and stick more with lifestyle changes (especially weight reduction).

1. Calcium

800-1,000 mg/day (appears to be effective only for salt-sensitive hypertension). Always balance calcium with magnesium, 300-500 mg/day.If you have mild hypertension (140 to 159 systolic and 90 to 99 diastolic), always start making lifestyle changes first, then start taking calcium and magnesium. In several studies, calcium has been shown to lower blood pressure; it is also involved in muscle contraction, so it is good for the heart and blood vessels.

2. Magnesium

300-500 mg/day: Results with magnesium alone are variable; however, magnesium should be given if calcium is supplemented. Magnesium relaxes the muscles that control blood vessels, permitting blood to flow more freely. It also helps to maintain a balance between potassium and sodium in the blood, which has a most positive effect on blood pressure. I recommend Cal/Mag as a supplement for high blood pressure. This product contains 2 parts calcium to one part magnesium and is perfect for those with high BP.

3. Potassium

The diet is the preferred source of potassium. However, supplementation with 600-1,000 mg/day may be worthwhile if dietary intake of potassium is sub-optimal. Potassium is effective in reducing blood pressure – but check with your practitioner if you are on a diuretic. Potassium supplements are almost never necessary; eating more fruits and vegetables is sufficient for most people – try eating kumara and tomato paste regularly, they are the highest sources you will generally find, apart from vegetable juices. Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food!

4. CoEnzyme Q10

60-200 mg/day, in divided doses, may produce substantial reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, particularly after 1-4 months of treatment. Your energy will increase as well.   Take CoQ10 with foods for best absorption. You may want to look at Q10 Plus from Thorne Research, it is one of the best cardiovascular products I know of when combined with omega-3 and Arginine.

5. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):

Supplementation with omega-3 or sunflower oil has lowered blood pressure in some, but not all, studies. One study showed that DHA supplementation lowered systolic blood pressure, while EPA did not. Flaxseed oil has been ineffective. There is little research on the use of a combination of EFAs. The decision of whether to supplement with EFAs is influenced by the EFA content of your diet, and by the presence of signs of EFA deficiency (such as dry, flaky skin, dandruff, poor nails, etc). Another tip with oils – did you have you gallbladder removed? – then take oil supplements with a digestive enzyme, you will feel much better for it, your bowels won’t be as messy and you will absorb more. The best dietaryu supplement to take with a low tolerance towards fatty meals (if say a meal of fish and chips makes you feel “sickly” or nauseous) the take a digestive enzyme. A good tip to remember. People without gallbladders will absorb fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E & K) more effectively if they improve their digestion generally.

6. Vitamin C

500-1,000 mg/day: reduces systolic blood pressure in elderly individuals, it will do so by helping to widen blood vessels. Vit C also prevents abnormal blood-clotting, atherosclerotic plaque development, helps prevent ischemic heart disease, stroke & thrombosis, and improves congestive heart failure. Are you not a fan of vitamin C like me yet?

7 Vitamin E

Always supplement with Vitamin E (400 IU/day) with blood pressure. Vitamin E does not raise blood pressure, contrary to early reports. There are dozens of studies which validate Vitamin E and blood pressure. Just keep an eye on your BP. especially if start to take 800iu/Vitamin E daily.

8 Taurine

500 mg twice a day on an empty stomach and Arginine1,000 mg twice a day on an empty stomach. (Don’t take arginine if you have genital herpes, or are prone to cold sores).Taurine helps to normalise the increased nervous system activity associated with high blood pressure, and arginine appears to widen blood vessels. These amino acids are not considered by me to be really essential in BP management on their own, they are often found in BP formulae which are available in health food shops or from your practitioner. I think they work better and more synergistically when combined for example with the herb hawthorn, CoQ10, magnesium, vitamin E and calcium. Use on their own in high dose with more advanced heart disease, e.g with congestive heart failure or particularly if one has BP along with macular degeneration or diabetes.

9. Herbal Formula

The herb hawthorn may help to BP by dilating the blood vessels by functioning as a diuretic and by enhancing heart function. It has a reputation for normalizing BP – i.e., if BP is low it helps to increase BP, if it is high it helps to lower BP. This herb has some reputation, and has been used since time immemorial with all manner of heart complaints. I like the taste to. Try the liquid herbal formulation containing Hawthorne, 15 – 20 drops twice daily long term here, 6 to 12 months. The powerful herb called hawthorn for heart conditions dates back to the 17th century, according to Dr. Green, an Irish doctor, is known to have used it extensively — though secretly — for heart ailments. After his death in 1894, his daughter revealed the famous cure to be a tincture of the ripe berries of Crataegus oxycanthus – Hawthore berries. In Europe, both homeopathic and conventional doctors used the herb for various heart and cardiovascular ailments from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries–and with great clinical success. Hawthorn had entered American clinical practice by 1896–only to fade from use in the 1930s – the drug companies started coming into their own at this stage and ridiculed and were quick to discredit any herbal medicines as “quackery” in favor of their patented (and therefore very profitable) heart drugs.

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