And how to cure it without becoming Big Pharma’s next zombie
So many people accept high blood pressure as yet one more sign of “getting old.” But since I hate that saying and what it implies, I thought we should take a closer look at this whole blood pressure business. And, make no mistake. It’s a BIG business for the pharmaceutical industry. It seems that almost everyone over the age of 45 who sets foot in my office is on a blood pressure medication. But there are some serious risks associated with these drugs that you need to know about. More on that in a bit.
First, let me tell you why you should never brush high blood pressure off as “no big deal”…
Waiting for symptoms may be
the deadliest mistake you can make
There are two types of high blood pressure. The first is called primary hypertension. It generally develops gradually over the years as the collagen and elastin in your artery and blood vessel walls breaks down. Collagen and elastin break down in most parts of our body as we age. The most visible sign is skin wrinkling. But the same thing is happening in your blood vessels.
The other type of high blood pressure is known as secondary hypertension. It tends to appear suddenly and causes higher blood pressure. Secondary hypertension can usually be traced to some specific underlying cause, such as:
- Kidney problems
- Adrenal gland tumors
- Congenital blood vessel defects
- Common medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs, like Ritalin or Adderall
But regardless of which type you have, high blood pressure (or hypertension) is truly a silent killer. Most people don’t experience any signs or symptoms until their blood pressure
reaches a severe–even life-threatening–stage. Which is what makes hypertension so dangerous.
For the record, some of those late-stage symptoms include dull headaches, dizzy spells, or nosebleeds. But, again, by the time these set in (if they set in at all), it could be too late. So it’s critical to take action NOW. Even if you think you’ve got it under control.
Because according to some brand new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the people in the country who have hypertension don’t have it under control.1
And the consequences of letting it go are downright deadly.
It’s not just heart attack and stroke
you need to worry about…
The most obvious risks of hypertension are heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. But it can also lead to some other, equally serious–and equally life- threatening–conditions. Ones you might not expect. Things like…
- Aneurysm. Over time, high blood pressure can cause a bulge in weakened artery walls. These bulges are aneurysms. And if one bursts, it can cause potentially deadly internal bleeding.
- Vision loss. High blood pressure strains the tiny blood vessels in your eyes, which impairs vision.
- Kidney failure. Hypertension causes artery and blood vessel damage. Which interferes with your kidneys’ ability to operate effectively. Eventually, this can lead to buildup of toxic waste and kidney failure.
- Cognitive impairment and memory loss. High blood pressure makes it difficult for blood to flow freely through your arteries and blood vessels. Without enough blood, your brain–and your memory–suffers.
It’s pretty obvious why this is one of America’s biggest killers. (Second only to diabetes.)
But, as deadly as it is, one of the biggest problems with hypertension in this country is that it’s actually overtreated. (As is everything else in modern medicine–especially in America.)
The hidden cost of reaching
that “magic number”
Many people are medicated to the point where they suffer from fatigue, memory dysfunction, and an overall malaise. I’ve seen patients on four or five different blood pressure medications simply to reach that “magic” number of 120/70. Yet, they could hardly move. There has to be a balance.
Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly a time and place for blood pressure medications. When the top (“systolic”) number is greater than 140, and all else has failed, even I will write a prescription. But usually in the lowest dose possible. And, as a last resort.
There are too many classes of blood pressure drugs to discuss in detail here, but the ones I always caution my patients against are beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics. Beta blockers can cause breathing problems and weight gain. Calcium channel blockers have been linked to breast cancer. And diuretics can deplete all the healthy minerals in your body. Risks that are hardly worth the “trade off.”
When and if I do prescribe a blood pressure medication, I almost always start with one of the angiotensin receptor blockers (or ARBs). I’ve found these to be the safest and best tolerated of all the hypertension drugs.
But, really, it’s a rare occasion for me to dole out one of these prescriptions. Because the vast majority of my patients–even the ones who come in with dangerously high blood pressure–never need them.
Better, easier, safer ways to
reign in high blood pressure
In my practice, I encourage patients with high blood pressure to start simple. By doing two things that can prevent–and improve–every illness.
The first is exercise. If you don’t train your heart, it gets lazy and weak. And a weak, lazy heart can’t pump blood properly though your vessels. Which is why exercise is the best thing you can do to prevent high blood pressure in the first place. And to help bring it down if you already have it.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Even something as low-impact as that evening walk I’m always reminding you to take can make a big difference.
The second “secret weapon” for beating hypertension is my New Hamptons Health Miracle. This is, by far, the easiest, most enjoyable way to reign in your blood pressure. Like all of the other conditions it helps control, your blood pressure will even out naturally when you start following it. Without having to make any special, blood pressure-specific diet changes.
These two simple steps lay the foundation for healthy blood pressure. But there are also some tremendously effective–and safe–nutritional supplements than can help your efforts even further.
Six supplements to help keep your blood pressure healthy Following is a quick list of the top nutritional supplements I recommend to patients to help maintain a healthy blood pressure:
- Pycnogenol®. Pycnogenol helps keep collagen and elastin in the blood vessel walls healthy. I recommend 100 mg per day.
- Magnesium orotate. Regulating blood pressure is one of magnesium’s many roles in the body. And orotate is the most absorbable form. I recommend 60 mg per day.
- Taurine. This is an amino acid and acts as a natural diuretic. But it doesn’t eliminate healthy minerals. Take 1,000 mg twice per day.
- Garlic. Probably the oldest blood pressure “medication” there is. It’s been used for centuries–and is just as effective today as it was hundreds of years ago. I recommend 300 mg three times per day.
- Theanine. This amino acid has significant calming properties. And since stress is a major factor in hypertension, theanine is one of the most helpful supplements. I recommend 200 mg three to four times per day.
- SAM-e. Another amino acid I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful for regulating mood and stress. And, in turn, blood pressure. I generally recommend 400 mg each morning.
The bottom line is high blood pressure is a serious condition and needs to be addressed. I always advocate taking the safest approach first. It may not always be the easiest, but it is always the most effective.
Setting the record straight about salt
I had to mention this because it’s the one risk factor everyone seems to get behind. But honestly, salt affects less than 5 percent of all people with high blood pressure. So, if you have high blood pressure, it is worth a try but for most a sodium restriction isn’t going to work. This also affects blacks greater than other races.
But there ARE a couple of dietary factors that do increase your risk of hypertension. The first is not getting enough potassium in your diet. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. Swiss chard, cremini mushrooms, and spinach are all excellent sources of potassium.
The second dietary risk factor is vitamin D deficiency. Last year, researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that women who were deficient in this essential nutrient were three times more likely to have high blood pressure than women with adequate levels.2 I recommend taking 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D every day.