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Hypertension

Definition, Diagnosis, and Natural Treatment

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Introduction

Table of Contents

Like a thief in the night, it can steal the most valuable thing you have - your health and even your life.

High blood pressure is one of the most dangerous conditions of our time. It’s rampant in our society, with nearly half of adults in the United States currently diagnosed. Known as the ‘silent killer,’ hypertension is so dangerous because it can hide in the shadows for a long time before causing major health problems

If your blood pressure remains uncontrolled over time, your risk increases for developing severe conditions. Only about one in four adults with high blood pressure have it under control.

Despite popular belief, high blood pressure doesn’t have to mean that you’re at the mercy of pharmaceuticals. While drugs may be the first-line treatment for most conventional doctors, this isn’t a real solution, and it can create more problems down the road.

At Natural Heart Doctor, we believe in taking a deeper look at the problem of high blood pressure. We’re here to shed light on the REAL root causes – something that your doctor has probably never talked to you about. Once we find out why you have high blood pressure in the first place, we can provide effective natural treatment.

It can be scary to face a new diagnosis of high blood pressure. At Natural Heart Doctor, we’re here to support, educate, and empower you to take control of your heart health.

After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of the following:

  • What is blood pressure?
  • Symptoms and complications of high blood pressure
  • Risk factors for high blood pressure
  • The four REAL causes of high blood pressure
  • Diagnosis of high blood pressure
  • Why pharmaceuticals are NOT a real solution
  • How to reverse and prevent high blood pressure naturally

Millions of people across the United States and worldwide are affected by hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has a cause. And it is up to the natural doctor to find the cause. This is not about pills. This is not about some kind of cover-up or band-aid approach. It’s about getting to the cause of why blood pressure is elevated. Although pharmaceuticals can lower blood pressure numbers, they do not significantly impact outcomes, such as heart attacks, strokes, and dying. That’s what matters.

Chapter 1:

Definition

Knowledge is power when dealing with high blood pressure. In today’s world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with medical advice and opinions. Learning the blood pressure basics will empower you to be your guiding force in healing and prevention.

The Basics of Blood Pressure

What exactly is blood pressure? While it’s a common household phrase these days, many don’t have a solid understanding of how it plays out in the body

As blood pumps through your body, it pushes up against the muscular walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is a measure of the force exerted against the artery walls. This force differs as your heart contracts and relaxes. Because of this, your blood pressure is measured by two different numbers:

Systolic blood pressure (The Top Number):

The force exerted when your heart contracts and pumps

Diastolic blood pressure (The Bottom Number):

The force exerted when your heart relaxes and fills

The 3 Factors that Determine Blood Pressure

When considering the mechanisms of blood pressure, there are three factors at play: 

Blood pressure = Heart Rate x Stroke Volume x Peripheral Vascular Resistance

Let’s define each one of these…

  • Heart Rate the rate at which the heart is contracting, typically measured as beats per minute.
  • Stroke Volume the amount of blood squeezed out of the heart during contraction.
  • Peripheral Vascular Resistance – the muscular tone of blood vessels which creates resistance. Changing any of these three factors can make blood pressure go up or down.  For example, if you increase your heart rate without altering the other two factors, your blood pressure will increase.

What is normal blood pressure?

The standard for normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. However, the best blood pressure is the lowest number where you still feel well. As long as you aren’t lightheaded or dizzy, lower is better

Younger people tend to have lower blood pressure, usually around 100/60. As you age, your blood pressure tends to creep up. If you’re over the age of 70, it may be normal to have a blood pressure that runs slightly higher than 120/80.

Blood Pressure Category SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number) DYASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)
Normal Less than 80 and Less than 80
Elevated 120–129 and Less than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 1) 130–139 or 80–89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 2) 140 or higher or 90 or higher
Hypertensive crisis (Consult your doctor immediately) Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120

It is essential to understand that blood pressure is most likely to cause complications when it remains elevated over time.

High blood pressure alone isn’t a problem. The problem is that high blood pressure is linked to other health conditions and adverse outcomes.

What about low blood pressure?

We place a lot of focus on high blood pressure, and it can be easy to forget that low blood pressure can be problematic as well. 

Like high blood pressure, low blood pressure can lead to adverse health effects. Research has shown that low blood pressure may cause worse outcomes in the event of a stroke.

In a study of patients with coronary artery disease, low blood pressure increased the risk of heart attacks. It may also cause acute kidney injury due to a lack of blood flow to the kidneys.

Some symptoms of low blood pressure include lightheadedness, dizziness, chronic fatigue, or fainting. 

If you’re currently taking pharmaceuticals, you may experience dangerously low blood pressure as a side effect. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you must work with your doctor to address the cause.

Chapter 2:

Symptoms and Complications

High blood pressure is known as “the silent killerfor a reason. There are no real symptoms of high blood pressure. Extremely high blood pressure may cause headaches or shortness of breath. However, your headaches could be causing high blood pressure – not the other way around. 

It’s impossible to know if high blood pressure is causing problems just based on symptoms. That’s why you should work with a doctor who can run tests to find out how your blood pressure is affecting you.

Complications of High Blood Pressure

As blood pressure remains elevated or uncontrolled over time, blood vessels take on damage. LDL builds up along the artery walls in response to this damage. Because of this, the circulatory system deteriorates, and the risk of developing other conditions rises.

Some health conditions known to be linked to high blood pressure include:

High blood pressure is also the top risk factor for Covid-19 hospitalization

Because high blood pressure leads to many other health problems, targeting the underlying cause as soon as possible is crucial.

The longer blood pressure remains uncontrolled, the higher the risk of developing one of these conditions.

Chapter 3:

Risk Factors

So often people are told: ‘It's in your genetics. It's in your genes. It's in your DNA’. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t blame your parents on this one. We’ve been on this planet for a long time. Our genetics are pretty darn good. We can run, jump, see, feel, love, be loved, and make babies. We can do all kinds of things. It’s just mind-boggling what fantastic creatures we are. And to say that your blood pressure problem is all in your genetics, to say that you’re predestined to have high blood pressure – that is incorrect. It’s just incorrect.

It’s a common myth that high blood pressure is solely a product of genetics. This is far from the truth. The real culprit behind high blood pressure is any combination of risk factors related to your nutrition, lifestyle, and environment. Eliminating these risk factors as much as possible will decrease your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Age

As you age, the systems in your body may not function as well as they used to. This is true of the cardiovascular system. Aging puts you at increased risk for developing hypertension. While aging itself may be out of your control, how you age depends on your lifestyle choices. The better you age, the lower your risk of developing cardiovascular problems – or other health conditions.

Obesity

The United States is facing an obesity epidemic with devastating health impacts. Carrying extra weight increases inflammation and strains your cardiovascular system. At least 75 percent of high blood pressure is related to obesity.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing pauses and restarts throughout the night. Obstructive sleep apnea is highly correlated with hypertension. If you think you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to get tested and treated for it.

Low Vitamin D

Your cardiovascular system loves the sunshine. There are even vitamin D receptors on your blood vessels! Higher mortality and increased risk of high blood pressure are linked to vitamin D deficiency.

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Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

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Smoking

Smoking activates the sympathetic nervous system and causes arterial stiffness, leading to higher blood pressure. Smokers who already have high blood pressure are more likely to develop severe forms of hypertension.

Lack of Physical Activity

Adequate physical activity will help prevent obesity, and it’s essential for good heart health. Evidence shows that moderate-to-vigorous exercise can lower blood pressure levels.

Autoimmune Disease

The immune system is a massive player in blood pressure regulation (to be discussed further in Chapter 4). Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking the body’s healthy cells, which increases the risk of high blood pressure.

Alchohol Use

Evidence shows that long-term alcohol use can increase blood pressure and your risk for cardiomyopathy and heart failure. For the best heart health, eliminate or minimize alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

Uncontrolled blood sugar can be harmful to the cardiovascular system. High blood pressure is present in at least two-thirds of individuals with diabetes. These two conditions are definitely partners in crime.

Chapter 4:

Four REAL Causes

Lifestyle-based risk factors drive high blood pressure through at least one of the four root causes.

These four REAL causes of high blood pressure are:

  1. Leaky gut
  2. Immune activation / Inflammation / Oxidative stress
  3. Endothelial dysfunction
  4. Autonomic imbalance

These four causes don’t act in isolation. They interact and feed into each other. This will make more sense as we take a deeper dive into each one.

1. Leaky Gut

A healthy small intestine has tight junctions between the cells that act as a protective barrier, keeping you from absorbing toxins into your body. 

When this barrier becomes hyperpermeable or ‘leaky,’ it allows certain things that don’t belong in the body to enter in. These could include environmental toxins, pesticides, viruses, bacteria, and parasites. 

Once toxins have crossed the barrier of the intestine, they’re able to enter your bloodstream. Your immune response will turn on, recognizing the toxin as a foreign invader. This leads to inflammation and oxidative stress.

2. Immune Activation, Inflammation & Oxidative Stress

The immune system plays a huge role in blood pressure. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, or physical injury. Blood vessels dilate, and immune cells travel to the area of injury. 

When the immune system is working properly, inflammation is short-lived and beneficial. 

However, if inflammation becomes chronic, your immune system may start attacking healthy cells. This is particularly problematic in the case of autoimmune disease. 

Inflammatory cells can infiltrate the tissue surrounding blood vessels. This causes them to remodel, creating a smaller lumen (or hole) for blood to travel through.  

Systemic or chronic inflammation can also increase arterial stiffness. These changes to the vascular system cause an increase in peripheral vascular resistance (PVR), resulting in higher blood pressure. 

Oxidative stress also impacts blood pressure. Oxidative stress occurs when the body becomes overloaded with waste products, known as free radicals. This can happen due to an unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet, and environmental factors. 

The body needs an adequate amount of antioxidants to defeat free radicals. 

Excessive free radicals can lead to inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and high blood pressure. Oxidative stress can also cause a decrease in nitric oxide, which is a molecule that helps blood vessels dilate and relax.

3. Endothelial Dysfunction

The endothelium is the inner lining of your arteries. It’s only one cell thick, and it plays a huge role in blood pressure regulation. 

The glycocalyx sits on top of the endothelium. The role of the glycocalyx includes:

  • Protecting the endothelium from damage
  • Regulating what passes through the blood vessel wall
  • Assisting with blood flow
  • Preventing blood clots

When the endothelium starts to malfunction, it can increase inflammation, remodeling, stiffening of blood vessels, and sodium retention. All of these mechanisms cause blood pressure to rise.

Did you know that your glycocalyx loves sulfur? The “hairs” of the glycocalyx are long molecules that contain sulfur. If you want to boost the health of your glycocalyx, eat plenty of sulfur-rich foods. You can take a bath in magnesium sulfate or Epsom salts.

4. Autonomic Imbalance

The autonomic nervous system is one component of the nervous system. Think of it as the “automatic” nervous system. 

It’s responsible for many of the processes in the body that are outside of our conscious control. 

Some of these include heart rate, breathing, digestion, and more. The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.

The Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic system (SNS) is also known as your “fight or flight” response. Think of it as the gas pedal of your body.  The SNS reacts to a potential threat or stressor – like being chased by a tiger or being late for work!

The SNS also turns on when you need more energy or focus, such as during a challenging workout class. Your heart rate increases, blood vessels constrict, and blood pressure rises.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic system (PNS) is known as “rest and digest,” or your body’s brake pedal. It is a state of relaxation, calm, and healing within the body. 

Heart rate slows, and blood flow increases to the digestive system. This is when the body works on tissue repair and reducing inflammation.

When the PNS is active, you will feel a state of presence and peace. The PNS calms the fight-or-flight response when there is no longer a threatening situation.

Autonomic Imbalance is Commonplace

Living in the modern world pushes many people into a state of sympathetic overdrive, leaving no time for essential “rest and digest” functions.

An overactive sympathetic nervous system can lead to elevated blood pressure.

Chapter 5:

Diagnosing and Monitoring

Most doctors diagnose high blood pressure but skip over the vital step of investigating why you have it in the first place. 

As we’ve discussed, it’s impossible to know if you have high blood pressure based on symptoms alone. 

It’s essential to use accurate lab testing to find out how blood pressure is affecting you and the underlying cause(s). 

At Natural Heart Doctor, we recognize the bio-individuality of each patient. Two patients could have the same diagnosis of hypertension with entirely different root causes. 

Therefore, the treatment approach needs to be different. We will further discuss the best evidence-based testing for high blood pressure in Chapter 8.

How to Monitor Blood Pressure

Daily monitoring will help you follow trends and ensure that blood pressure remains under control. Here are some suggestions for monitoring your blood pressure at home:

  • Check your blood pressure only once per day. Checking it more often isn’t necessary and can often cause additional stress.
  • Vary the time of day that you check your blood pressure. This will give you an idea of how your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day.
  • The best way to get accurate results is to ensure your arm is at the same level as your heart. Sit in a chair with your feet uncrossed and flat on the ground and use a brachial cuff (not a forearm cuff).
  • Record your blood pressure and heart rate in a diary — document how you feel when you take the reading. Note things like fatigue, what you have been doing, how stressed you are, etc.

Chapter 6 :

Why Pharmaceuticals Are Not the Solution

High blood pressure becomes a problem over time. Things can start to change in the kidneys, heart, and brain. We’ve got plenty of time to make it right. We don’t need to rush to pharmaceuticals. We don’t need to jump to Big Pharma.

In conventional settings, diagnosis of high blood pressure often comes with a pharmaceutical. Typically, if your blood pressure is 150/90 on two separate occasions, most doctors will start you on medication. Their goal is to get your blood pressure under 140/90. 

At Natural Heart Doctor, we believe pharmaceuticals are not the solution because they create a false sense of security without targeting the underlying causes. 

While pharmaceuticals may be necessary for some situations, they should always be prescribed in conjunction with treating root causes. 

The goal should always be to eventually come off the pharmaceuticals to achieve your 100 Year Heart naturally.

The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS)

Before diving into how pharmaceuticals affect the body, we first must look at how your body self-regulates blood pressure. The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS) is a system of hormones responsible for helping to regulate your blood pressure. It balances fluid and electrolyte levels and regulates vascular resistance and tone.

Many pharmaceuticals interfere with this natural blood-pressure regulating system.

The RAAS starts in the liver, which produces a protein called angiotensinogen. This protein is converted to angiotensin 1 by an enzyme in the kidney called renin. 

Angiotensin 1 converts into angiotensin 2 in the kidneys and tissues by ACE, or angiotensin-converting enzyme. The final product of angiotensin 2 causes higher blood pressure through multiple mechanisms, including:

  • Increased sympathetic tone
  • Increased aldosterone, leading to increased sodium and water retention
  • Contraction of the arteries
  • Signaling the pituitary gland to produce an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) which results in water retention

The Effects of Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals often interfere with your body’s normal processes for blood pressure regulation. Whenever you alter your body’s natural processes, problems can happen. Let’s take a look at the commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals, how they work in the body, and some of their dangers.

ACE Inhibitors

(captopril, enalapril, benazepril, lisinopril)
ACE inhibitors block the ACE enzyme, which stops the production of angiotensin 2. These medications can affect your electrolyte balance and impair kidney function. In extreme cases, they may induce acute renal failure.
Study Link

ARBs or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers

(losartan, telmisartan, olmesartan)
ARBs block angiotensin receptors, preventing angiotensin 2 from increasing blood pressure. Similar to ACE inhibitors, ARBs carry the risk of affecting kidney function and electrolyte balance.
Study Link

Beta-Blockers

(metoprolol, atenolol, carvedilol, nebivolol)
Beta-blockers slow your heart rate by blocking epinephrine (or adrenaline). A slower heart rate leads to a decrease in blood pressure. Beta receptors are located all over your body, meaning these medications can cause systemic side effects such as low blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness, and constipation.
Study Link

Diuretics

(HCTZ, furosemide, indapamide, chlorthalidone)
Diuretics block the reabsorption of sodium and chloride, helping your kidneys produce more urine. This allows more fluid to be released from the body, lowering your stroke volume. Diuretics can come with electrolyte disturbances, and they may impact kidney function.
Study Link

Calcium Channel Blockers

(amlodipine, diltiazem, verapamil)
Calcium channel blockers work by blocking calcium from entering your cardiovascular system. This allows your arteries to dilate and lowers blood pressure. These medications have side effects of swelling, flushing, headaches, nausea, and rashes.
Study Link

Aldosterone Blockers

(spironolactone)
Aldosterone blockers inhibit aldosterone, which is responsible for retaining sodium. Less sodium retention means less fluid in your body, lowering stroke volume. These medications may cause adverse sexual effects and electrolyte imbalances.
Study Link

Do Pharmaceuticals Work?

Pharmaceuticals may help get your blood pressure back into a normal range. But although your numbers might look “normal,” it doesn’t mean that you’re not at a higher risk for adverse health outcomes. 

The Medical Research Council did a large-scale study to look at the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals. This study found that blood pressure medication did decrease the risk of stroke from about seven percent to four percent. 

However, the goal should be a zero percent risk of stroke, which you can only achieve by decreasing your risk factors and addressing the causes. The study also found that pharmaceuticals had no protective effect against heart attacks or mortality.

This is how pharmaceuticals can give you a false sense of safety. Your blood pressure numbers may look normal, but you’re still at a higher risk for poor health outcomes.

To understand this better, imagine a situation with two different people – we’ll call them Michael and Thomas. They’re both the same age and have the same normal blood pressure. However, Michael is on blood pressure medication to keep his numbers regular, and Thomas isn’t on any medication. Even though their numbers are precisely the same, Michael still has a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. Michael needs to address the root cause of his high blood pressure to reduce his health risks — not just cover up the issue with medication.

Side Effects of Pharmaceuticals

As we’ve discussed, pharmaceuticals act by interfering with the normal processes in your body. Any time you disrupt these processes, you can expect a slew of side effects. Some potential side effects include electrolyte imbalances, increased blood sugar, fatigue, edema, constipation, coughing, rashes, low libido, erectile dysfunction, and more.

All blood pressure medications can cause your blood pressure to drop to a dangerous low. Thanks to this side effect, blood pressure medications are associated with fall injuries in older adults.

How to Come Off of Pharmaceuticals

If you’d like to come off your blood pressure medications, you should work closely with your doctor. Find a new doctor if your doctor is unsupportive or unwilling to work with you.

We recommend that you start making changes to your nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements at least one week before you start cutting back on pharmaceuticals.

Chapter 7:

Natural High Blood Pressure Treatment

These days, our society isn’t set up for health. You’re trying to eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, go outside, and battle all of the daily stresses of modern life.  

While it can feel like an uphill battle, a natural approach to health is worth it.

Natural treatments are the best way to lower blood pressure because they target the root causes. Natural interventions support your overall health without any adverse side effects.

Follow the 100 Year Heart Diet

These days, the world of nutrition couldn’t be more confusing. There are so many fad diets and different options for “healthy” diets. The options can be overwhelming. At Natural Heart Doctor, we believe that the optimal diet for high blood pressure and overall wellness is an organic, whole food (real food) diet that supports your body.

The basic premise of the 100 Year Heart Diet includes:

  • Vegetables: local and organic
  • Meat, seafood, and eggs: pasture-raised and grass-finished animals fed their native diet and wild seafood
  • Healthy plant-based fats: such as avocados, coconut, nuts, and seeds
  • Healthy oils and fats: such as olive oil, coconut oil, and animal fat
  • Seasonal fruit: small amounts, local and organic.

Foods you should avoid include sugar, gluten, sodium, MSG, and artificial sweeteners.

In addition to the 100 Year Heart Diet, intermittent fasting helps to support heart health.  There are several different types of intermittent fasting. Time-restricted fasting calls for eating within a specific window (8 hours) and then fasting in-between (16 hours). You can also try alternate-day fasting, where you have a fast day (24 hours) followed by a feed day. Extended duration fasts can last for 36 hours or longer. Giving your body a break from eating reduces inflammation, resulting in lower blood pressure.

At Natural Heart Doctor, we strongly believe in eating organic, local food and pasture-raised and grass-fed meat.  

Not only is this ethical, but it also minimizes the number of toxins and pesticides you’re ingesting into your system. Pesticides can alter your gut microbiome and increase your risk for cardiovascular death by 300 percent.

Did you know that seafood can help protect you from the effects of stress? A recent study found that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can decrease your body’s reactivity to stress. Eating more fish and seafood can be protective against high blood pressure.

Get Sleep

Sleep is essential in supporting your health and treating high blood pressure. The human body has a natural circadian rhythm. You should be going to sleep when the sun goes down (or soon after) and waking up when the sun rises. Poor sleep hygiene is common, especially with the distraction of devices and screens.

Never underestimate the healing power of high-quality sleep.  

Sleep causes your body to enter a parasympathetic state. This allows for the reparative processes in your body to take place. When you go to sleep, your blood pressure will naturally drop and rise again when you wake up. Ideally, you should be aiming to sleep for eight or nine hours per night. Anything less than a whole night’s sleep may lead to a higher heart rate and elevated blood pressure.

Get Sunshine

Another free and easy way to lower your blood pressure is to get out in the sun! Think of your skin as a solar panel. For your best health and lowest blood pressure, you need to be absorbing energy from the sun.

Sunlight is the best way for your body to absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D helps boost nitric oxide and suppress inflammation in your body. Low vitamin D levels can increase your risk of high blood pressure by over 200 percent. 

You’re probably thinking – what about melanoma? While it’s true that people who had severe childhood sunburns have a higher risk of developing melanoma, it doesn’t mean you need to avoid the sun. You just need to be smart about your sun exposure. Here are a few tips we recommend…

  • Slowly build up your sun exposure day by day to avoid sunburn
  • Include Omega DHA in your diet (this helps protect from sunburn)
  • Use organic sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for a long time
  • Go outside even if it’s cloudy and overcast – you’ll still get benefits!

Get Calm

Never underestimate the mind-body connection. Your mental health can have a massive impact on your physical health. In today’s chaotic world, stress and mental health disorders are at an all-time high.

Stress can lead to autonomic dysfunction and an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Depression, anxiety, stress, and anger are linked to high blood pressure. There are many natural ways to decrease stress and boost your parasympathetic nervous system. Here are a few we recommend:

  • Get a massage
  • Chew gum (find a natural brand)
  • Practice yoga or meditation
  • Focus on deep-breathing
  • Try acupuncture
  • Use essential oils

Get Moving

To get your blood pressure down, you need to get moving! A sedentary lifestyle is associated with high blood pressure. Regular physical activity is a necessity for boosting long-term health and vitality.

You don’t need a gym membership. In fact, it’s better if you’re able to exercise outside. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be the most effective exercise for lowering blood pressure, but many other forms of activity are beneficial. You should be getting outside and walking every day, even twice a day if you can swing it. Other fun ideas for outdoor exercise include biking, hiking, outdoor yoga, or even gardening.