What is Hypertension?
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, refers to the excess force the heart exerts against the walls of blood vessels. The pressure exerted is dependent on the resistance of the blood vessels and how hard the heart has to work. It is estimated that half of all Americans may have high blood pressure, even if they are not aware of it.
It is important to address high blood pressure because it is a primary risk factor for all forms of cardiovascular disease, including aneurysms, strokes, and heart attacks. Normalizing blood pressure reduces the risk of developing all of these conditions.
Nutrient Deficiencies with Hypertension
There are many factors that can play a role in the development of hypertension, including genetics, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, environmental toxins, and autoimmune disorders.
Often times, essential nutrients needed to regulate normal blood pressure can be depleted, like certain B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and others. These can get depleted due to a nutrient-lacking diet, environmental toxins, or even drug-induced nutrient depletions.
Balancing electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium, is crucial when addressing hypertension. Studies have demonstrated a significant reduction of blood pressure with increased dietary intake of potassium. To further enhance that point, those on a higher sodium intake have a greater reduction in blood pressure with potassium, therefore balance is crucial.
Some estimates go as far as to say 98% of all Americans are not getting enough potassium. Potassium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps and spasms, mental confusion, irritability, nerve conduction abnormalities, heart arrhythmias, and weakness. Taking diuretics, COPD, and diabetes mellitus can cause potassium deficiency. Potassium toxicity can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with ulcers. Good sources of potassium include many fruits and vegetables, but especially avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, and apricots.
Magnesium is another crucial nutrient to consider. Many Americans (as high as 75%) do not reach the recommended intake of magnesium daily. Magnesium is a known vasodilator, meaning it allows smooth muscles (like arteries) to expand. When a tube-like structure, like an artery, expands, the pressure within the closed system lowers. Multiple clinical trials show consuming between 500-1,000mg of magnesium daily reduce blood pressure. You can find magnesium in nuts, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Both magnesium and potassium deficiencies are associated with hypertension.
Vitamin D influences blood pressure because it affects calcium-phosphate metabolism. When vitamin D levels are low, the chances of developing hypertension increase. The only way to test for vitamin D levels is to get a vitamin D3 blood test. Ideally, vitamin D3 levels should be within 50-80 ng/mL. If your vitamin D levels are low, consider supplementing and getting outside more often.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation should be addressed when it comes to hypertension. Levels of homocysteine and C-Reactive Protein (CRP-hs) can be elevated, as well as lipid peroxides. All three of these markers are measurements for oxidative stress and inflammation when elevated. Additionally, those with hypertension tend to have lower levels of vitamin C.
The heart needs sufficient energy to work properly, and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is needed for that. The primary function of CoQ10 is to shuttle electrons through the electron transport chain (ETC) to the mitochondrial inner membrane, in a never-ending cycle of oxidation and reduction. This is what powers the heart, muscles, and all energy-using processes in the body. If you are taking a drug to lower cholesterol levels, especially statins, it is likely you have lowered CoQ10 levels. If you are on one or more of these medications, consider taking CoQ10. CoQ10 can be found in all animal products. If you are feeling a little adventurous, high contents of this nutrient can be found in the heart meat of animals. It can also be found in broccoli, cauliflower, lentils, peanuts, and spinach.
As of today, there are no known contraindications to taking CoQ10, although doses above 200 milligrams can lead to mild nausea and diarrhea. If you are going to take CoQ10, it is best to take it with food, as it is best absorbed then. If you are taking CoQ10 for prevention purposes, a dosage between 30-100 milligrams daily will suffice. When choosing a CoQ10 supplement, be sure it is pure CoQ10, and not a fake substitute compound. Make sure the brand you choose is tested for any possible alterations to the supplement.
Hypertension can also be a symptom of cadmium or lead toxicity. Therefore, if you are hypertensive, it may be worthwhile to perform heavy metal testing, along with addressing the nutrient deficiencies outlines above.
Interestingly, if you happen to be taking antihypertensive drugs, it is like you can be deficient in key nutrients needed to alleviate high blood pressure. Diuretics, for example, decrease potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, folate, vitamin B6, zinc, iodine, and CoQ10. Beta blockers can reduce zinc and CoQ10 levels.
Consider adding garlic to your cooking as well! Garlic has also shown the ability to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. LDL particles cholesterol bring fats into your arteries to transport for storage in the body, while HDL particles ship them out. It also increased nitric oxide output, a known vasodilator. One year-long study on aged garlic (or garlic that has been fermented) showed it can reduce plaque buildup in arteries and also lower levels of homocysteine, which, according to the American Heart Association, is an independent risk factor for heart disease.
If you want to address chronic inflammation, you need to be at peace with yourself as well. You can find that inner peace a number of different ways. Here are just a few things you can do at home:
Practice meditation. Try to recall times you felt loved and appreciated. Reflect on them. Recall how you felt when you were loved and appreciated at that time. Look back on this at least once a week, and cherish the times you were happy with others. Reflecting will help you appreciate all the great people and moments you have had in your life.
Spend time outside. Whether it is going for a walk, meeting up with friends, playing sports, exercising, or taking a break from work, just get outside. Also, spending time out in the sun for fifteen minutes a day with exposed arms and legs in warm weather environments will help you get vitamin D, which is crucial to your health.
Try stretching in the morning and at night. Staying limber and loose will allow you to maintain proper range of motion in your joints and muscles. It also is a great way to wind down and relax before bed.
Reduce your usage of social media. While it may not seem like it, social media is more likely stressing you out than calming you down. Stress levels go up when you are on social media for a few reasons. First off is the blue light exposure, which is more of an issue when scrolling through social media or favorite news outlets at night. Secondly, you may get into arguments, fights, or read upsetting posts without another means to process your information. It is fine to go on your social media once or twice per day. Use this time instead to actually spend time your friends and family in real life. This is a great way to reduce stress levels, as you will gain a sense of security and connectedness with people in the real world.
Additionally, incorporating adequate amounts of exercise will be key to controlling hypertension. If you have been inactive for a while, start with short walks and gradually increase the length of them. Set goals, schedule time into your day, and make it happen. If you fall into this category, start with moderate-intensity activities that you enjoy (walking, cycling) and slowly increasing the duration, intensity, and frequency as you get stronger. Start with a goal of 30 minutes per day, five times per week, and work from there.
Make sure to stay well-hydrated. Sources go as far as to recommend the amount of water needed per day is equal to half your body weight in fluid ounces. In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 fluid ounces of water daily.
Finally, making sure you are getting proper amounts of sleep, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, as well as alcohol and smoking, will help you make tremendous progress in alleviating hypertension. You are looking for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
Here are some ways you can optimize your sleep patterns:
- Finish your last meal at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.
- Ideally you should be in bed by 10:00 or 10:30 PM. If you are going to be much later than that, you can start by trying to go bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you can get to sleep at that time. This helps normalize our circadian rhythms.
- Stop all electronic activity at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.
- Install a blue-light filter on all your electronic devices.
- Invest in a pair of blue-light filtering glasses.
- Crack a window at night to get some fresh air in the room. If it is too cold, try to get a warmer blanket. Alternatively, during the summer, try to keep the sleeping room temperature between 66 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal range for your best sleep.
- Stop drinking caffeine past 2 PM. If you can get through days without caffeine at all, even better!
- Turn off all night lights.
- Block any external sources of light, whether it be from street lights or a neighbor’s house.
- If someone snores or is a mouth-breather, it would be wise to consult a dentist, as it leads to poor sleep.
- Stay away from multivitamins and other stimulating supplements late at night, as they can keep you up.
- Try to keep your wake and sleep times on the weekends consistent with your weekdays. This is much easier said than done and takes a lot of practice.
- Cutting back on alcohol can help improve your sleep quality. Alcohol can disrupt deep sleep (your REM cycle), and you may wake up in the middle of the night as a result.
Estimates find that hypertension (high blood pressure) might affect up to half of all Americans. It is a primary risk factor for heart disease, one of the major killers in the United States today. Luckily, there are therapeutic strategies you can employ to help bring blood pressure levels back to normal and reduce your own risk of heart disease.
Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding. Neither the publisher nor the author takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person reading or following the information in this book. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.
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