Hypertension
(high blood pressure)

information on nutrition, diet, lifestyle & research on treatment

Symptoms   Causes   Diet   Supplement options   Lifestyle   Integrative approaches   Diet and nutrition discussion

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, a condition with many causes. Approximately 95% of people with high blood pressure have "essential" hypertension (also called "idiopathic" or "primary" hypertension).

Self Help

  • Stop smoking: Smoking is especially harmful for people with high blood pressure.27 Combining smoking and hypertension greatly increases the risk of sickness and death from heart disease related conditions. All people with hypertension need to stop smoking.
  • Alcohol in moderation: Drinking 3+ alcoholic beverages daily appears to increase blood pressure in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed.28
  • Exercise: Daily exercise can markedly lower blood pressure.
  • Weight loss: Weight loss can lower blood pressure markedly in patients who overweight.

Diet

  • Cut back on salt: Salt intake has also been definitively linked to hypertension in the West. For most people, eliminating salt from the diet lowers blood pressure. The more salt is removed, the greater the beneficial blood pressure-lowering effect.
  • Eat vegetables: Vegetarian diets have been reported to significantly lower blood pressure. This occurs partly because fruits and vegetables contain potassium - a known blood pressure-lowering mineral. The fiber provided by vegetarian diets may also help reduce high blood pressure.
  • Avoid sugar: Sugar reportedly raises blood pressure in animals and humans. Some medical professionals recommend that people with high blood pressure cut back on their intake of sugar. We recommend that you especially avoid white sugar.
  • Avoid caffeine: Although the long-term effects of avoiding caffeine (from coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks, and some medications) many health providers tell patients with hypertension to avoid caffeine.
  • Avoid food allergens: One study of 15 people who had migraine headaches reports that when they consumed a hypoallergenic diet there was a marked drop in the blood pressure for all of them.24 If you have hypertension, you should consider allergen elimination when you talk to your medical professional.
  • Heavy Metals & Lead: Heavy metal and lead exposure has been tied to hypertension in some,25 but not all, studies.26 If diet, lifestyle and other methods to reduce blood pressure are not effective it is appropriate to check heavy metal levels.

Read more about supplements and other integrative approaches.

Management

The following play key roles in management:

Diet, lifestyle changes and natural substances can reduce blood pressure, but this is not a "cure" for the condition. Diet, lifestyle changes and/or another other supplementation must be maintained in order to manage hypertension.

Maintenance is critical. Hypertension is a primary risk factor for many serious conditions including stroke, heart attack, leaking arteries (aneurysms), kidney disease and peripheral heart disease. It is a major indicator of a shorter life span.

What Is "Normal" Blood Pressure?
There are several categories of blood pressure, including:
• Normal: Less than 120/80
• Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89
• Stage 1: 140-159/90-99
• Stage 2: 160 and above/100 & above

Symptoms

Essential hypertension is usually without symptoms until complications develop. The symptoms of complications are typically related to circulation and heart issues. High blood pressure can also be due to being overweight - so that lifestyle changes can bring about significant improvement.

Causes of Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Two forms of high blood pressure include essential (or primary) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension is a far more common condition and accounts for 95% of the population with hypertension. The cause of essential hypertension is unknown. In secondary hypertension, which accounts for 5% of all cases, the high blood pressure is secondary to or caused by a specific abnormality in one of the organs or systems of the body such as renal hypertension, adrenal gland tumors and coarctation of the aorta.

  • Weight. Carrying excessive body weight can increase blood pressure due to increase in blood produced to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues in your body.
  • Ethnicity. People of African American and Native American ethnicity have very high rates of high blood pressure.
  • Activity level. Lack of physical activity tends to increase heart rate, which forces your heart to work harder with each contraction.
  • Tobacco use. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can damage artery walls.
  • Sodium intake. Excessive sodium in the diet can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, especially in people sensitive to sodium.
  • Potassium intake. Low potassium can result in elevated sodium in cells, because the two balance one another.
  • Stress. Chronic Stress can raise blood pressure.
  • Anger. Chronic underlying anger and resentment can raise blood pressure (in Chinese medicine, pattern of imbalance could be Liver Yang Rising or Heart Heat).
  • Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.
  • Family history. People with relatives who have high blood pressure are more likely to develop high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can also be caused by an underlying condition, such as kidney disease, hormonal disorders, thyroid disease, adrenal gland disease, and the use of certain drugs, such as oral contraceptives, or herbs such as licorice. This type of high blood pressure is called secondary hypertension.

Conventional Treatment

Essential hypertension has no cure, but treatment can modify its course. Many drug combinations are used to treat hypertension, as are diuretics. Several classes of diuretics exist, including thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics. Diuretics are usually combined with beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors. Alternatively, calcium channel blockers may be combined with diuretics. Healthcare practitioners may also recommend lifestyle modifications, such as moderate weight reduction and dietary sodium restriction.

Helpful Supplements

  • Regarding the Revision Formula recommendation: ReVision is a Liver tonic - the liver is the primary meridian responsible for the free flow of blood and energy throughout the body. High blood pressure is a form of "stuck" energy in Chinese medicine.
  • Regarding the Coleus Forskohlii recommendation: Like Revision, Coleus helps improve blood flow. It especially helps to reduce blood pressure.
  • CoQ10
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Discussion of other nutrients

Lifestyle Modification

Exercise

Daily exercise goes a long way towards reducing blood pressure. and can do so.29 One study reported that a 12-week Tai Chi program was equally effective to aerobic exercise in reducing blood pressure.30 Weight training also seems to help reduce blood pressure, but gradual strengthening is important.31 The act of lifting heavy weights is known to sharply raise blood pressure. Therefore, patients who also have heart disease, should begin strenuous weight training with care. Generally, those over 40 should check with their medical professional before beginning any new, especially strenuous, exercise program.

Weight

Being overweight is a major consideration and risk factor and most hypertension patients are overweight. Losing weight is one of the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure.32 Even reducing your weight by only 10 pounds can make a marked blood pressure reduction.33 The value of losing weight is even greater than restricting salt consumption.34

Other Integrative Approaches

Meditation & Yoga

Men's stress, anxiety, and stress on the job has been tied to hypertension.67-70 Interestingly, some studies have connected high blood pressure directly to suppressed anger and aggression.71 However, the benefit of treatment for stress is controversial - undoubtedly because not all treatments are the same. Some trials found that biofeedback or some forms of meditation were no more successful than placebo.72-74 However other trials reported good results combining yoga, biofeedback, and/or meditation.75-77 A 2007 assessment reported that Transcendental Meditation® Zen Buddist meditation and Qi Gong markedly reduced blood pressure.105 It also found that yoga and mindfullness-based stress reduction reduced stress.105, 109. Other research has reported that Transcendental Meditation is very effective in reducing high blood pressure and anxiety.106-108

Acupuncture

Preliminary animal studies78 and human research 79-81 suggests that acupuncture may support blood pressure regulation. Most,82-88 trials also report that acupuncture may effectively reduce blood pressure, at least during the period immediately following treatment. Over the longer term it appears that acupuncture (electroacupuncture) reduces systolic but not diastolic blood pressure.110

Auricular acupressure

Ear (auricular) acupressure has been suggested to be an beneficial treatment for high blood pressure,89 90 91 though in one case the improvement was not much better than utilization of traditional herbal medicines.92

Chiropractic

Spinal manipulation may at least temporarily lower blood pressure in healthy people.93-96 But it may be no better than the hypotensive effect of fake manipulation.97 In hypertensive people, temporary, short-term, decreases in blood pressure have also been reported after spinal manipulation.98-104

Studies

See footnotes and research.

More footnotes:

105. Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhaneh M, et al. (June 2007). "Meditation practices for health: state of the research". Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) (155): 148
106. Anderson, J.; Liu, C.; Kryscio, R. Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: A meta analysis. Am. J. Hypertens 2008, 21, 310-316
107. Barnes, V.A.; Treiber, F.A.; Davis, H. Impact of transcendental meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. J. Psychosom. Res. 2001, 51, 597-605
108. Schneider, R.H.; Alexander, D.N.; Wallace, R.K. In search of an optimal behavioral treatment for hypertension: A review and focus on transcendental meditation. In Personality, elevated blood pressure, and essential hypertension, Johnson, E.H.; Gentry, W.D.; Julius, S., Eds.; Hemisphere: Washington, DC, USA, 1992; pp. 291-312
109. Mind-Body Practices in Integrative Medicine, Harald Walach, Marie-Louise Gander Ferrari, Sebastian Sauer and Niko Kohls, Religions 2012, 3, 50-81.
110. Effects of electrical stimulation of acupuncture points on blood pressure, Zhang J, Ng D, Sau A., J Chiropr Med. 2009 Mar;8(1):9-14.
111. Systematic review of effect of coenzyme Q10 in physical exercise, hypertension and heart failure, Rosenfeldt F, Hilton D, Pepe S, Krum H., Biofactors. 2003;18(1-4):91-100.