High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure
Many people are unknowingly at risk of a deadly health issue, walking around with a biological bomb building inside in the form of high blood pressure.
The Center For Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately:
1 of 3 US adults — or about 75 million people — have high blood pressure [and] only about half (54%) of these people have their high blood pressure under control.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a potential contributor to all-cause mortality (1) — that means death from all causes — so we need to ensure we are both aware of, and address, this common health issue.
The great news?
We can, often, normalize this health challenge through safe, natural therapies.
But before we dive into the evidence-based treatment approaches for high blood pressure, let’s take a look at what high blood pressure is, what your numbers should be, the signs and symptoms that may give away its presence, and then we’ll talk about powerful conservative care options.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is created by blood passing through your vessel walls. As with all closed systems, optimal pressure is essential for the system to run well. Your cardiovascular system is no different. The right amount of pressure ensures blood travels from your heart to your toes, fingers, head and everything in between and then returns after visiting your lungs to be re-oxygenated.
What are the side effects of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, places a strain on the walls of your cardiovascular system. As the pressure increases, lowered flexibility of your arteries results, tissue damage occurs, and, eventually, a dangerous rupture can occur.
Healthy arteries are durable, flexible, and elastic. Their inner lining is smooth because it helps blood flow freely while supplying vital organs and tissues with nutrients and oxygen. When hypertension occurs, the inner lining of your arteries is damaged, which means your artery walls are less elastic and fats are collecting in these damaged arteries.
Your organs depend on the nourishing blood flow to function correctly. Without a healthy stream, vital organs such as your heart, brain, and kidney can wear out and fail, leading to death. Your tissues also rely on healthy blood flow for nutrients and oxygen. Without a localized tissue congruency, an aneurysm, a hemorrhage, or other cardiovascular complications like a stroke or a heart attack can occur. Think of an aneurysm like a weak spot in a tire that is bulging out and ready to burst. Many times, aneurysms can develop over a span of many years without producing any noticeable symptoms; until it’s too late, hence why it’s a silent killer.
So what should your blood pressure be?
We’ll come to this in one moment, but first, it’s important to note that blood pressure can vary markedly in a healthy adult, depending on stress, activity levels, the time of the day, even the time of the year with higher blood pressure found during winter. (2) Blood pressure can also rise depending on where it is taken. For example, a person can give a higher than usual blood pressure reading simply by having it taken in a clinical setting. This phenomenon is called white coat hypertension. This is why it is essential to have three separate tests before a diagnosis, ignoring a hypertensive crisis.
Now to the numbers in a healthy adult…
A blood pressure measurement includes two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic is when the heart contracts to push the blood out and around the body. As you can imagine, this requires more effort, a higher pressure, and so it is the higher number. Diastolic is when the heart relaxes to allow it to refill with blood, and with the lower pressure comes the lower number. Now…
Below 90/60mmHg comes with a diagnosis of low blood pressure. This is usually not a cause for concern unless lightheadedness or fainting is experienced.
120/80mmHg or lower is considered a healthy blood pressure.
According to a recent reclassification, the American Heart Association, states 130 – 139mmHg and 81 – 89mmHg is considered high blood pressure stage 1; 140mmHg or higher and 90mmHg or higher is stage 2; 180mmHg or over and/or 120mmHg or over is a hypertensive crisis requiring immediate medical attention. (3)(4)
What causes high blood pressure?
Ah, that is the critical question! And it’s important to consider because, like a flashing light on your dashboard, high blood pressure is a warning sign. But warning of what?
As you will see the risk factors below, our bodies often warn us that our lifestyle choices are less than ideal. We know, sometimes it seems strange that one person long harbors significant risk factors yet flies under the hypertensive radar, while a seemingly healthy person can be affected.
These factors significantly increase your risk of developing high blood pressure (5):
– Smoking tobacco (any)
– Living a sedentary lifestyle (less than 150 min of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week)
– Being obese (if your BMI is between 25-29.9 (or your 20% or more over your ideal weight)
– Excessive alcohol intake (more than one glass for women and 2 for men)
– Aging (this has to do with arteries and veins becoming stiff)
– An unhealthy diet (high in processed foods or low in whole nutrient rich foods)
– High levels of stress
Certain prescription medications such as:
Estrogens (including birth control pills)
Many over-the-counter medicines such as:
cough/cold and asthma medicines, particularly when the cough/cold medicine is taken with certain antidepressants, such as tranylcypromine or tricyclics
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Ecstasy (MDMA and derivatives)
anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs
Foods and Beverages:
High Sodium Foods
High Sugar Containing Foods
There are also illnesses such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, some tumors, hypothyroidism and obstructive sleep apnea that increase the risk of hypertension. (6)
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?
As the cardiovascular system extends throughout the body and mind so, too, can the signs and symptoms of hypertension. However, the most common symptom that exists? None, no signs at all… It’s the lack of symptoms that can lead to the first sign of high blood pressure being a fatal heart attack. That’s why it’s important you come in to be tested!
For those with very high blood pressure these signs and symptoms can occur:
– Blurred vision
– Shortness of breath
– Visual problems
– An irregular heartbeat
– Chest pain
– Heart attack
– Impaired kidneys (swelling of the legs and/or kidney failure)
– Pain while walking
– Cold feet
– Blood in urine
For those with chronic hypertension, where blood pressure remains high over the longer term, symptoms can include:
– Cognitive changes such as memory loss, trouble finding your words and failed focus even during conversations and tasks
– Peripheral artery disease, where the increased pressure has, over time, created intra-arterial plaque build up, can result in cramping, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the legs, feet, and buttocks after walking or climbing stairs.
– Permanent disability
Given hypertension’s potential catastrophic results, the importance of professional assessment and care are paramount. Medications can have side effects. If you are like us, you’d instead target the causes, reduce your risk factors, and normalize your blood pressure through health supportive measures and approaches. Let’s take a look how…
Conservative Care Options for Hypertension
Conservative care options should form a large and important piece of the hypertensive care pie, and we see many remarkable results with our approaches in our clinic, every day.
There are effective ways to care for your health, and by following a healthy lifestyle, blood pressure will often normalize.
Nutrition and Dietary Changes
One of the first steps we take is in helping you evaluate your current diet and provide customized plans and support for you to adopt a DASH-like, or Mediterranean-like diet that we call the Wholefoodivore diet. Since everyone is different, every program we provide is different and tailored to your health and goals. We will help you include a variety of nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats while eliminating some of the less healthy options.
The next step is a fitness evaluation. We will see where you are and set some realistic and achievable goals with you so you can reach activity levels you are comfortable with and get the results you need.
We don’t do weight loss programs or calorie counting because we get such excellent results when our patients follow our dietary and fitness recommendations that weight loss if needed just naturally occurs. We do monitor specific indicators such as BF% and BMI to track your progress, but we are most interested in your health status not the number on the scale.
Getting 8 hours of sleep a day is crucial for heart health – it is the only time our body can heal and repair itself. If you are having difficulty sleeping we have many different ways we can help, depending on the cause diet, chiropractic, physical therapy, or acupuncture may be used.
Smoking and Alcohol Cessation
We all know by now that you shouldn’t smoke especially if you are trying to make some positive health changes in your life. We recommend that you consider acupuncture for smoking cessation or ask us about additional resources.
No more than one glass for women and two glasses of alcohol for men per night are the recommended limitations currently put forth by the American Heart Association. If you have difficulty with this limit, we can help you with some additional resources.
Are you managing your stress well?
Are you setting aside time to include stress relieving techniques like exercise or yoga? We can put you in touch with various resources including LCSWs, Yogis, Meditation and acupuncture experts to help you eliminate stress.
If a positive lifestyle hasn’t been enough to restore an ideal blood pressure or you prefer to send in the army right away Chiropractic care, massage and acupuncture could offer the help you need.
Chiropractors have long understood that the spine and nervous system have far-reaching and profound effects. Research shows this is no different in hypertension.
The atlas — also called C1 as it’s the first cervical (or neck) bone — is the vertebra that sits directly under your skull. Along with its joints and attached tissues, it is a cornerstone of health.
Research by Bakris and team, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Human Hypertension, found:
“Atlas [re]alignment is associated with marked and sustained reductions in BP [blood pressure] similar to the use of two-drug combination therapy.”
A further study published in the journal Biomed Research International also noted the link between decreased movement between the atlas-axis (or C2) and hypertension, and how the restoration of normal motion to the C1-C2 joint complex can normalize blood pressure in hypertension. (7)
Chiropractors commonly see this in the clinic, so it’s important to be assessed, and where needed, adjusted.
Prehypertension is the condition existing just before a hypertensive diagnosis and is confirmed at 120-129/80 (or below) mmHg. As prehypertension can occur on the way to high blood pressure, it is crucial to diagnose its presence and treat it accordingly to potentially reduce the risk of elevation and harm to our health. And massage forms as important therapy here.
Moeini and team showed that massage is a “ safe, effective, applicable and cost-effective intervention” for controlling prehypertension in women. (8)
Massage also offers hope for normalizing blood pressure in those who currently have hypertension. (9)(10)(11)
According to a current research article, Neuroendocrine Mechanisms of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Hypertension published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture has both short term and long lasting blood pressure effects.
A study of 50 patients with hypertension found that after 30 minutes of acupuncture both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lowered by 10-20 mm Hg. (12)
This beneficial effect appears to persist for a prolonged period when acupuncture is performed once weekly for eight weeks. This may be because acupuncture modulates the stress system output (or sympathetic outflow) and possibly positively impacts on our hormonal, or endocrine, system.
There are known acupuncture points for high blood pressure, which have strong cardio-vascular actions and can significantly reduce high blood pressure. Acupuncture meridians are located over major nerve pathways. By sending impulses that activate the areas of the brain that regulate the cardiovascular system — as well as others in the body — acupuncture can reduce hypertension.
Hypertension is a serious, potentially deadly condition that must be assessed and, where needed, addressed. By working together, we can develop a treatment plan that incorporates optimal dietary and lifestyle strategies to place you on the right track to healthy blood pressure. With the addition of powerful professional therapies and techniques, through Chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture, hypertension can often be reversed safely, leading to a healthier body and brain and a longer life.
We look forward to helping you soon!
Note: If you are currently on blood pressure medication it’s important to continue taking it as your medical doctor has prescribed, but be aware, as your blood pressure normalizes, your prescription may need to be altered.
References and Additional Reading
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Information, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 May 2018, www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm. Accessed 7 June 2018.
High Blood Pressure , National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-pressure. Accessed 7 June 2018
Bakris, G, et al. Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study., Journal of Human Hypertension, 27 July 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17252032. Accessed 7 June 2018.
High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm. Accessed 16 June 2016.
Beasley, Deena. New blood pressure range means half of Americans have hypertension, edited by James Dagleish, The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles, 13 Nov. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-health-hypertension/new-blood-pressure-range-means-half-of-americans-have-hypertension-idUSKBN1DD2Q2. Accessed 7 June 2018.
FAQs, High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia, www.hbprca.com.au/high-blood-pressure/faqs/. Accessed 7 June 2018.
Impact of elevated blood pressure on mortality from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, heart disease and stroke among Japanese: 14 year follow-up of randomly selected population from Japanese — Nipp, Journal of Human Hypertension, 28 Nov. 2003, www.nature.com/articles/1001602. Accessed 7 June 2018