Cardiovascular disease is still the #1 cause of death in America, 41% of all fatalities in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease. Hypertension is also one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in the United States. Over 90% of hypertension is diagnosed as “primary” or “idiopathic”. This means that we do not know why or how a patient developed high blood pressure.
Generally, in medical school, students are taught to treat idiopathic hypertension with medicine. The result is a lifelong regimen of two or more medications to solely treat a patient’s blood pressure, which have caused anti-hypertensive meds to be among the top 10 most commonly prescribed drugs. Unfortunately, these medications can not only cause undesirable side effects but also mask the underlying cause. These drugs also always have a side effects and disrupt the natural blood pressure regulating process.
Diet and lifestyle changes are equally as effective in lower high blood pressure. Thirty percent of the population has hypertension and another thirty percent has pre-hypertension. Men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure before the age of 45, however after 65 the ration reverses.
Why is hypertension so important? Uncontrolled blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, Diabetes and peripheral vascular disease which causes blood vessels to become narrowed and restrict blood flood as a result. The functional medicine approach to treat hypertension is to address the root of the cause, studies have shown that lifestyle changes alone, such as exercising regularly, can reduce the risk of heart disease by a dramatic 90%.
The following are recommendations to help maintain a healthy blood pressure:
- No smoking and Stress management
- Maintain a healthy weight (BMI less than 25)
- Eat foods high in plant fiber
- Reduce sodium and potassium
If these recommendations do not seem to lower hypertension, other factors to consider include genetic predispositions, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental triggers.
By addressing the primary cause of high blood pressure, it is possible to wean off anti-hypertension medications. High blood pressure is always a sign of an underlying dysfunctional and/or disease, such as a fever can indicate an infection or another imbalance. This should always tell your doctor that your body is not in balance physiologically and it needs attention.
So, what is a healthy blood pressure level? The commonly accepted measurement is 120/80, however this is it not optimal. The increase of cardiovascular risk doubles starting at 115/75 and doubles again for every 20/10 increase. So, 115/75 is the goal for optimum health. It is critical to understand that hypertension can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss and stoke. Which means if you treat the blood pressure only the underlying causes might continue to go unnoticed.