According to the CDC, a whopping 75 million Americans—that’s nearly 1/3 of the adult population—are struggling with high blood pressure, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-altering health consequences along the way. Skipping the salt and squeezing in some regular workouts can help keep your blood pressure from reaching dangerous levels, but it takes a more proactive approach to keep your blood pressure under control in the long run.
Recent research shows that lowering your blood pressure below these levels decreases your risk of heart attacks and all-cause mortality. That’s right—lowering your blood pressure has a direct impact on your life expectancy. In fact, a person with a systolic pressure of 135 has double the risk of heart disease as someone with a systolic pressure of 115. Same goes for a diastolic pressure of 85 instead of 75. 10 points might not seem like much, but every blood pressure increase has a big impact on your health.
Don’t assume that your doctor is aware of these facts. If you are diagnosed with mild, high blood pressure, you likely will be prescribed medication, instructed that it is helpful, and told that you must take it for the rest of your life. But before accepting this potentially dangerous treatment, it may be to your advantage to seek answers to the following questions: “What caused my high blood pressure?” and “Can I remove those causes and reverse this condition?”
When taking your blood pressure, it’s imperative that the cuff is put on correctly before starting the measurment. Be sure to refer to your device’s manual for specifications and instructions on proper placement. Also, ensure that the cuff is appropriately sized for your arm. Universal cuff sizes work for most, but custom small or large cuffs are available.
Guanadrel (Hylorel)* or guanethidine (Ismelin)* may cause some diarrhea, which may persist in some people. This side effect usually becomes less of a problem if you continue treatment. These drugs reduce blood pressure more when you stand. Consequently, you may get dizzy and lightheaded and feel weak when you get out of bed in the morning or stand up suddenly. If you notice any of these reactions and if they persist for more than a minute or two, contact your doctor. He/she may instruct you to reduce or omit the next dose of the medication.
Blood pressure readings fall into four general categories, ranging from normal to stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension). The level of your blood pressure determines what kind of treatment you may need. To get an accurate blood pressure measurement, your doctor should evaluate your readings based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings at three or more office visits.
Stirring some flax into your favorite smoothie or morning oatmeal could be the first step toward lowering your blood pressure. Flaxseed is a great source fiber, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve the health of your heart and circulatory system. Research conducted at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences even reveals that individuals who added omega-3s to their diets had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than their placebo-taking counterparts.
3. Implement strategies to lower inflammation. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies connect high blood pressure with chronic inflammation, a driving force for nearly every disease on the planet. Lowering inflammation starts with what you put on your fork. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like wild-caught seafood (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), freshly ground flax and chia seeds, spices like turmeric, and plenty of colorful plant foods. Good sleep, stress management, exercise, and the right nutrients can also help lower inflammation.
Your doctor may also use a device called an ophthalmoscope to look at the blood vessels in your eyes. Doctors can see if these vessels have thickened, narrowed, or burst, which may be a sign of high blood pressure. Your doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and the sound of blood flowing through your arteries. In some cases, a chest x-ray and electrocardiogram may be needed.
The reason why people with blood pressure readings in this range should lower it, even though this is not classified as 'high' blood pressure, is that the higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk of health problems. For example, someone with a blood pressure level of 135 over 85 (135/85) is twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as someone with a reading of 115 over 75 (115/75).
This headache isn't the kind that you pop some over-the-counter meds and it goes away. If you're getting severe headaches with no prior history of migraines, high blood pressure may be to blame. Extremely high blood pressure, known as malignant hypertension, puts pressure in the cranium (the part of the skull that encloses the brain). As blood pressure rises, pain builds in the cranium. That causes severe headaches.
SOURCES: The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 21, 2003. Aram Chobanian, MD, dean, Boston University School of Medicine and chair of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Claude Lenfant, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. Edward Roccella, PhD, MPH, coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program at NHLBI. John Laragh, MD, Cardiovascular Hypertension Center at New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Hypertension. WebMD Medical News: "Diuretics Best for High Blood Pressure."
Instead of reaching for drugs, we should continue to find the most effective lifestyle interventions to help lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular risk without a laundry list of side effects. Unless, of course, you consider losing weight, having more energy, and feeling great as side effects — those are the type of side effects (from low-carb eating) that we all can embrace!
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels and constitutes one of the principal vital signs. The pressure of the circulating blood decreases as blood moves through arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins; the term blood pressure generally refers to arterial pressure, i.e., the pressure in the larger arteries, arteries being the blood vessels which take blood away from the heart.
For this reason, Dr. Alan Goldhamer and his colleagues at the Center for Conservative Therapy set out to carefully document the effectiveness of supervised water-only fasting and to report the results to the scientific community in a way that other doctors might find convincing. To assist him in this task, Dr. Goldhamer and his research staff at the Center sought the help of one of the world’s leading nutritional biochemists, Professor T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University.
For some reason, health care providers often think of high blood pressure—or hypertension—as a "man's problem." More men have hypertension than women when they're younger, but once women reach menopause, their risk becomes greater than men's. Overall, about half of Americans with high blood pressure are women—and they're less likely to be diagnosed and treated for it.
Hypertension is often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. Men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have a similar level of risk for developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risks than men of developing high blood pressure. Prior to age 45, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure, but certain female health issues can change these odds.
Spironolactone is a medication that has been used to treat high blood pressure since the 1960s. While there is some belief spironolactone reduces blood pressure, there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which spironolactone reduces blood pressure, the nature of spironolactones adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension. The search revealed 5 cross-over trials with a total of 137 patients that received both spironolactone followed by placebo or vice verse, in a random order. One other trial was found that randomly gave 42 patients either spironolactone (22 patients) or placebo (20 patients). The daily doses of spironolactone used in these studies ranged from 25-500 mg daily. Studies followed patients for 4 to 8 weeks of therapy. None of the studies reported on the clinical impact of spironolactone (i.e. whether spironolactone reduced heart attacks or strokes compared to placebo). Overall reporting of adverse effects was poor so no conclusions can be drawn about the adverse effect profile. This meta-analysis shows that spironolactone reduces systolic/diastolic blood pressure by approximately 20/7 mm Hg compared to placebo.
Note: The fasting and high blood pressure study described in this article was funded in part by a grant from the National Health Association. It was conducted at the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove, California. The results appeared in the article, “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” published in June 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.