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Hypertension

By
Lynne Brown
BSc Hons, HDE, Dip Clin Nutr

Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure or hypertension is one of our most worrying medical problems. This is because hypertension often causes no symptoms until complications develop. Some people experience headaches, nosebleeds or blurred vision, but most only find out they have the condition when they have their blood pressure taken. High blood pressure should never be ignored however, as it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Defining dangerous levels

Blood pressure is the force needed to pump blood around your body and is expressed as the systolic pressure (when your heart is contracting) over the diastolic pressure (when your heart relaxes). Hypertension is generally defined as a blood pressure in excess of 140 systolic over 90 diastolic (140/90).  However, new guidelines state that only blood pressure below 120/80 should be considered normal, and that people with blood pressure in the range 120/80 to 140/90 are 'pre- hypertensive' and should take steps to reduce their blood pressure.

The Anti-salt Strategy

The anti-salt strategy may backfire because researchers are now saying that by avoiding salt, you may be creating the very health threat that you’re trying to avoid. Studies have been unable to prove that salt jacks up your blood pressure and putting people on low-salt diets has not had the extensive impact on reducing the health consequences of high blood pressure that science had expected. Researchers believe that the problem is more likely to be too little potassium, calcium and magnesium than too much sodium. Research has also shown that a low-salt diet may raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol that you want to keep as low as possible) enough to increase the risk of heart disease.

On the consumption of salt my general advice to everyone whether suffering from high blood pressure or not, is not to use free-flowing table salt. It is loaded with anti-caking agents, usually aluminium compounds implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s. Look in health shops for sea salt crystals and grind them in a salt mill.

Lose weight

Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for high blood pressure and can make you 5 times more likely to develop the condition than if you were at a healthier weight. It is important to lose excess weight and indulge in regular exercise.

The natural way

Hypertension can often be controlled effectively using a drug-free
approach, and food and supplements are your greatest ally in this respect.

  • You need to avoid sugary and starchy foods because they push
    up insulin levels, which can lead to high blood pressure by causing your
    body to retain more sodium.
  • Increase your consumption of vegetables and fruit as these contain more potassium, complex carbohydrates, fibre, calcium, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which exert a favourable influence on blood pressure.
  • Garlic and onions can reduce blood pressure because they contain a
    substance called adenosine, which relaxes and widens the blood vessels
    If you're not keen on fresh garlic, take one AIM Bear Paw Garlic capsule three times a day.
  • The effect of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine on blood pressure is significant. Limit your intake of all of these substances.
  • The Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been found to be as effective in lowering blood pressure as beta-blocker drugs. Taking a 1,000mg fish oil capsule three times a day could show excellent results after just one month. (Please remember that this must be pharmaceutical grade fish oil or you could do more harm than good)
  • Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can lower blood pressure in just 4-12 weeks as effectively as prescription medication and without the adverse side-effects.

Add a mineral supplement

Population studies suggest a link between high blood pressure and poor dietary intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Many hypertensive patients also take diuretics and diuretics are known to cause magnesium depletion. Magnesium deficiency, in turn, is associated with loss of cellular potassium. (Potassium is found in many fruits and vegetables, which may account for the fact that vegetarians are less likely to be hypertensive). Given the possible benefits of taking a supplement containing all three of these minerals, it is certainly worth a try. (Find one containing calcium citrate, lactate or glutonate, not calcium carbonate).

Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional.  All serious disease needs a physician.

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