Grassroots Naturopathic Medicine Health Clinic


Facts about Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Why is High Blood Pressure, also called Hypertension, called “Silent”?  To help us get a better understanding, here are some shocking facts about High Blood Pressure, from the World Health Organization.

An estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30–79 worldwide have hypertension

An estimated 46% of adults with hypertension are UNAWARE they have it

Often, hypertension is silent, meaning there are NO SYMPTOMS

Less than half of adults (42%) with hypertension are diagnosed and treated

Only 1 in 5 adults (21%) with hypertension have it under control

Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide

Get Your Blood Pressure Checked

Your Naturopathic Doctor can check your Blood Pressure at your next visit.  We often note white coat syndrome in patients, even though we don’t wear white coats at the clinic!  White coat syndrome means your blood pressure (BP) will elevate because you are anxious about getting your BP checked.  We can have you lie down for 10  minutes prior to testing and we will look at 3 readings on separate visits.

Another option is to check your own BP at a pharmacy or at home.  Be sure to sit still for several minutes prior to testing and make sure you are calm, to ensure an accurate reading.

Understanding Blood Pressure

Hypertension is defined as the pressure in your blood vessels, specifically your arteries, being too high (140/90 mmHg or higher).  Systolic, or the top number, is the pressure in your arteries when the heart pumps.  Diastolic, or the bottom number, is the pressure in your arteries when the heart relaxes.  Increases in Systolic Blood Pressure occur when the walls of the arteries constrict, often due to a stress response.  Increases in Diastolic Blood Pressure might be more of a concern, because it can indicate that the blood vessels are stiff, thickened or hardened by artery disease, and they have a hard time relaxing after they have been put under pressure.

Optimal Blood Pressure is around 110/70.  Did you know that one of the best nutrients to relax the muscles in the arterial walls, thus DILATING the vessels and LOWERING pressure is Magnesium?  It just so happens that Dr. Kyley’s Masterclass this month is on this magnificent mineral!

Blood Pressure and Inflammation

How does High Blood Pressure contribute to inflammation in blood vessels?  I like to imagine the arteries like a garden hose.  Imagine too much water pressure on that hose, the hose would likely start to tear.  Think of this as a PHYSICAL IRRITANT.

Much like this analogy, your blood vessels can tear, we call these micro-tears, under too much pressure.  This can compromise the ENDOTHELIUM which is the single layer of cells of the inner lining of blood vessels.  As I discussed in last month’s newsletter, once these microtears happen, lipoproteins like LDL cholesterol can infiltrate into the lining of the blood vessels.  The process of plaque formation, or atherosclerosis, begins.

Now it can be a vicious cycle.  The blood vessels are thickened which increases blood pressure, which causes more inflammation and damage.

Risk Factors for Hypertension

Aging– as we get older, the need to know our blood pressure numbers increases. Know your numbers!
Genetics– family history can increase your risk.  Sometimes various genetic tests such as MTHFR gene mutations can be helpful in identifying the WHY of hypertension, as these variants can cause an increase in an inflammatory molecule called Homocysteine.
Metabolic Dysfunction, Poor Body Composition and Physical Inactivity- watch for our Grassroots Metabolic Health and Body Composition Assessments coming in the New Year!  You heard it here first!
High-salt or sodium diet– The main source of sodium in our diet is from processed and canned foods.  Remember to shop the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh, unprocessed foods.  Fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain important trace minerals like Potassium and Magnesium that can offset sodium’s blood pressure-increasing effects.
Low Phytonutrient Diet – is a fancy way of saying not eating enough fruits and vegetables.  Nutrients from colorful fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that can help prevent damage to the endothelium.
Consuming Trans-fats and too many Saturated fats– Avoid Transfats 100%!  Minimize Saturated fats from red meat and high fat dairy products like cheese.  Increase your intake of good fats from olive oil, olives, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, and clean fish like wild salmon (clean SMASH fish are salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring).  Flax and Fish are rich in Omega-3s which are one of the best anti-inflammatories for blood vessels.  Talk to your ND about an Omega-3 supplement.  The dosing is higher than you think!
Alcohol consumption– the new guideline of 2 drinks per week MAXIMUM could be important to keeping your blood pressure down.  Studies are beginning to conclude that there are NO health benefits from consuming alcohol.
Smoking– Smoking is a CHEMICAL IRRITANT to blood vessels.  Tune in next month for more on chemical and inflammatory causes of heart disease.

Testing your Cardiovascular Health if you have Hypertension

There are several easy and very inexpensive tests that your naturopath or family doctor can order to assess the health of your arteries if you have hypertension and to help identify the root cause of your hypertension.

hsCRP – or HIGHLY SENSITIVE C-reactive protein, like the name suggests, is a very sensitive marker for inflammation in the body.  This test is not SPECIFIC, meaning the inflammation could be coming from blood vessels or from another injury in the body.  However, it is still a great screening test to assess if hypertension is causing arterial damage.  Good to note – plain old CRP on most blood tests is not a useful test.
PLAC – The PLAC Test measures the amount of Lp-PLA2 in the bloodstream. Lp-PLA2 is an enzyme that can assess the amount of inflammation in your arteries due to a build-up of cholesterol.  This is a more SPECIFIC test for artery inflammation.
Homocysteine – is an inflammatory molecule in the body.  Sometimes called the “H Factor”, a homocysteine over 8 can increase all-cause mortality, or death from all causes, but especially heart attacks and strokes from blood vessel inflammation. Homocysteine builds up in the body when there is a deficiency in the methylated forms of B12 and Folate, and in people with the genetics (MTHFR) that prevent them from methylating/detoxifying properly.
Toxic Metals Testing – toxic metals especially lead can inflame blood vessels and contribute to artery disease by acting as a CHEMICAL IRRITANT.

Remember, get your numbers checked and talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about testing and treatment options!