Did you know that the human body has several physiological systems to detect and increase low blood pressure compared to only one that lowers high blood pressure? This fact may seem a bit confusing given that millions world-wide are diagnosed with and treated for hypertension each year. So why do humans only have this one way to counteract such a prevalent health concern? The answer is quite simple: During thousands of years of human evolution the body was far more susceptible to hypotension vs. hypertension and we adapted several different internal mechanisms to “fix” the problem. Over the past hundred years drastic changes in diet and lifestyle have flipped that trend upside-down however, and we have ended up challenging that one, purely physiological mechanism designed to fend off the hypertensive effects incurred on our blood pressure. In evolutionary terms, the human body has not had sufficient time to adapt to such radical changes. So in today's day and age we have hypertensive patients filling prescriptions that put a temporary fix in place, essentially masking the underlying causes of the high blood pressure … not exactly the most ideal way to correct a long-term problem. What is most striking to me is the number of patients who are taking blood pressure medications while unaware of how many easy ways there are to counteract their hypertension without medical and pharmaceutical intervention.
Before continuing, let me point out that there are some basic principles to maintaining health blood pressure that are a “given” in all medical fields. These basics are widely known in the public forum as well and they include: avoiding excessive sodium intake, exercising regularly, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, and not smoking. Cardiovascular health is directly affected by these factors, no doubt about it. But there's more than that to take into consideration, so let's dig a little deeper and identify some other therapeutic and preventive ways to counteract the high blood pressure dilemma. Here are my top 3 suggestions to my patients, family and friends:
1. FOOD – Yes, I know this is a very broad term and I could write an entire book on this topic alone! Here are the highlights: Increase consumption of vegetables, especially green leafy varieties as they are packed full of vitamins and nutrients vital to cardiovascular health. They contain high levels of potassium which helps to counteract sodium levels in the body. Cook with healthy fats that help regulate cholesterol levels such as olive oil and coconut oil, and supplement with a high-grade fish oil for optimum Omega Fatty Acid intake. These oils have shown to decrease LDL levels while improving HDL and triglyceride levels which in turn prevent plaque build-up in arterial walls (thus improving blood pressure). The nitrates found in beets, flavonoids found in berries, and the mono-saturated fats in almonds are all incredibly useful in fighting and preventing hypertensive and studies have revealed that these foods decrease systolic / diastolic readings in patients as quickly as 20 minutes after consumption. I am also including green tea in this category as consumption of this amazing beverage has countless health benefits including lower blood pressure. Researchers have noted a direct correlation in reduced blood pressure among hypertensive patients who drank 8 oz. of un-sweetened green tea each day vs. those who did not.
2. MANAGE STRESS – We all deal with pressures throughout the day. Stress directly affects blood pressure and those of us who have difficulty managing our daily stress have a dramatically higher incidence of hypertension. Exercise is one of the best ways to alleviate stress as it releases mood enhancing endorphins, releases tension and calms the mind. Sedentary lifestyles lead to higher rates of depression, an accessibility to handle stress and reduced cardiovascular health. Many of my patients find success in lowering blood pressure through practicing yoga and meditation as these activities help balance energy levels and regulate the effect of stressors on the mind and body. Meditation has been used world-wide for thousands of years to promote mental and physical health and can be practiced just about anywhere at any time of the day. Mindful meditation is a simple practice that helps sync the mind with breath and heartbeat and can be used to help control stress induced hypertension. Mindful meditation is so easy that it can be practiced sitting at a desk or walking down the street. A fantastic read on the topic of mindful meditation is the book titled “You are Here” by world promoted meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn.
3. CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENT – There are many promising studies that indicate chiropractic adjustment of a misaligned atlas (C1) vertebrae can result in a reduction of systolic / diastolic pressures in hypertensive patients. Connective neuron pathways responsible for relaying information from baroreceptors in the heart to the brain are located in the atlas region of the neck, and a vertebral misalignment in this area will decrease the efficacy of communication from the body to the brain (and vice versa) thus affecting blood pressure regulation. Doctors of Chiropractic have long been aware of this phenomenon and recently studies performed by medical research teams have agreed with this practice. According to an article published by the University of Chicago Hospitals, “a local study of 50 individuals with a misaligned Atlas vertebra (located high in the neck) and high blood pressure showed that after a one-time specialized chiropractic adjustment, blood pressure declined significantly The reduction was equal to taking two blood-pressure drugs at once. ” The results are published in the online March 2, 2007 issue of the Journal of Human Hypertension. The findings of UCH agree with the results of other research studies in the field and show promising results following chiropractic manipulation for the management of hypertension.
It is important to recognize that high blood pressure can be affected by many different health and lifestyle choices. Hypertensive patients must be aware that they are not strictly limited to taking a prescribed medication to alleviate their condition. Through educating our patients, family and friends we can shed light on just how effective natural remedies can be in controlling a condition that affects millions worldwide, allowing individuals to pursue a course of treatment that is best suited to his or her personal preference without strictly stricting on pharmaceutical intervention.