One in three Americans has high blood pressure (hypertension) – or pressure measuring over 140/90. The most common type of high blood pressure is “essential” or “idiopathic” hypertension, meaning that the cause is “unknown”. In functional medicine, the cause of most disorders, including hypertension, is understood to be a break in the function of the systems of the body, usually bought on by poor lifestyle and diet choices.

Pressure below 120/80 is generally considered as normal, but after age fifty the systolic, or first number, can be 100 plus half your age. The diastolic, or second number, should always be below 80.

Hypertension is often a result of poor dietary choices, and an insufficiency of certain essential minerals, especially magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the muscles, including the muscle layer of the arms. When magnesium is insufficient, the treaties may tighten, increasing blood pressure. Most Americans get only about 10% of the magnesium they need. Also, insulin resistance leads to magnesium depletion. People who follow a high carb, low-fat diet set themselves up for magnesium deficiency.

Diuretics are often prescribed for lower blood pressure, but diuretics cause a loss of important minerals, including magnesium, the very mineral that can help! This may be why people taking diuretics often see their blood pressure increase over time, leading to additional prescriptions. Diuretics may also increase homocysteine, a serious cause of heart disease.

If you have high blood pressure it is a good idea to have your magnesium levels tested with a red blood cell magnesium test. This is the only truly useful test for magnesium levels, in my opinion. If your levels are low, a magnesium supplement can be very helpful. I prefer magnesium citrate or magnesium chelate.

You also might consider taking some potassium, or better yet, adding more vegetables to your diet. Some people have been able to lower their blood pressure simply by daily eating four stalks of celery, a potassium rich vegetable.

Fat ratio regulation is also very important, that is the ratio of Omega 6 / Omega 3 oils. Most people consume too many Omega 6 oils which are found in sunflower, canola, safflower and corn oil. Adding high quality fish oil to your daily diet will help. My favorite is Blue Ice® Fermented Cod Liver Oil.

Inflammation, excess insulin and ineffective kidney function are also frequently involved with high blood pressure. If magnesium and potassium fail to lower your blood pressure, these other factors should be investigated and deal with.

You will also find it helpful to follow an exercise program, control the stress in your life and supplement with Vitamin D3, if needed. I always recommend a Vitamin D lab test to my patients.

If you try some of these natural treatment ideas while taking high blood pressure medication and you begin to feel weak, dizzy or light-headed, please let your prescribing doctor know right away because your medications may need to be adjusted.