What is High Blood Pressure?
According to WebMD, “One in every three adult Americans -- about 65 million people -- have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.” Hypertension occurs when the pressure against your artery walls gets too high, which can lead to a variety of health problems over time. (1)
While extremely common, especially among Americans, hypertension is also extremely dangerous. Also known as the “silent killer”, many people don’t show symptoms or know they have high blood pressure until it’s too late.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Many factors can lead to high blood pressure, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, or other medical conditions.
A healthy diet is crucial for preventing and managing high blood pressure. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, also known as the DASH diet, emphasizes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lowering your salt intake. Cutting out processed foods and replacing them with whole foods is a great way to cut down on sodium and get essential nutrients.
Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down and it helps alleviate stress (another cause of high blood pressure). Another big factor is alcohol and tobacco consumption. Cutting out the bad habits and replacing them with healthier ones isn’t easy, but it’s the best way to prevent and help manage high blood pressure.
As with many chronic illnesses, high blood pressure also tends to run in families. People with a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes are more likely to suffer from it themselves.
It's also more common in people who are African American and people over 55 years old.
Other Risk Factors
In some patients, high blood pressure is related to other medical problems or can be a side effect of certain drugs (like NSAIDs). This form of the disease is called secondary hypertension, because it happens secondary to other medical conditions.
Dangers of High Blood Pressure
Many people who have high blood pressure don't realize they have it, as it rarely causes symptoms, even as it causes serious damage to the body.
According to the CDC, when left untreated, high blood pressure can cause a variety of issues, including vision problems, heart & kidney failure, heart attack, or stroke. (2)
Ways to Combat High Blood Pressure
The best way to prevent or combat high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. The ideal blood pressure for a healthy adult is 120/80.
According to heart.org, “A blood pressure reading appears as two numbers. The first, the higher of the two, is your systolic pressure. That's the force in the arteries when the heart beats. The second number is your diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.” (3)
With regular monitoring, you will be able to track your numbers, and see if changes you’ve made are working. Download a printable blood pressure log (PDF). from heart.org to track yours.
The Natural Approach to Treating High Blood Pressure
While high blood pressure is oftentimes treated with medication, it’s not as effective as making a lifestyle change, and may come with a variety of side effects. Functional medicine doctors treat high blood pressure mainly by focusing on what we can do naturally to heal our bodies. As we mentioned earlier, your diet plays a huge role in how your body functions. Eliminating inflammatory, sugary, processed foods and cutting down on salt and alcohol are crucial for lowering your blood pressure even if you’re on blood pressure medication.
Exercise and staying trim also make a big difference. Regular aerobic workouts condition the heart and keep blood vessels working properly, while relaxation exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qigong are great ways to destress. Supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, and Coenzyme q10 are also great ways to boost nitric oxide, which helps your blood pressure. (3).
If you think you may be at risk for high blood pressure, don’t wait! Get your blood pressure checked today!