High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a concern because it often has no symptoms and can lead to more serious health problems like coronary artery disease, vascular dementia, eye damage, stroke, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease and heart attack.

Blood pressure (BP) is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Your BP reading has two numbers:

  • The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on your artery walls when your heart beats or contracts.
  • The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure on your artery walls between beats when your heart is relaxing.

“Normal” readings are around 120/80mmHg, but this can vary with age and disease condition. For some 140/90mmHg might be acceptable. Ask your medical provider what is a good range for you. And it takes 2-3 readings to really get an average of the reading. Measurements taken first thing in the morning will generally be a little higher and the lowest reading will happen around three in the afternoon. Be consistent with the time of day you measure if you are doing day to day comparison.  Your blood pressure can be too high! If it gets to 180/120 mmHg or higher it can produce headaches, heart palpitations or nosebleeds. Blood pressure this high requires emergent care.

The usual causes of high blood pressure include situational stress, poor diet, smoking and vaping, alcohol and lack of physical exercise. Other contributors include certain medications, including immunosuppressants, NSAIDs like Advil and ibuprofen, oral contraceptives and recreational drugs like amphetamines and cocaine. Conditions like diabetes, age over 50, obesity, kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, primary aldosteronism, hyperparathyroid disease, also contribute to high blood pressure.

Natural ways to lower blood pressure include a heart healthy diet- typically one that is more like the Mediterranean diet, which is lots of vegetables, generous doses of olive oil, lean meats and fish, a little fruit. That means not a lot or no breads, sweets, cakes, candy, sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, or processed foods. Salt affects about a third of the population’s blood pressure. If you cut back on the cheese and processed foods and breads, much of your salt will disappear from your diet.  Herbal medicines, mineral balance, nutritional support and supplements, may be considered with advice of your naturally based healthcare practitioner. Managing your cholesterol will keep your arteries healthy and flexible. Cholesterol management is possible with the help of naturopathic medicine.

Stress management is super important to blood pressure regulation. When the body perceives a threat to its security, survival mode is triggered. It is important to find ways to discharge stress. This means a good night sleep, regular physical activity, time outdoors, regular healthful meals, positive social interaction, time to pray and play. Acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy, vagal nerve activation therapy, breathing techniques and positive focus of love, care or appreciation for someone or something in your life all can help regulate blood pressure. 

This article is for educational purposes only and in not medical advice.

Questions? drlaura@southendguelph.ca

Main photo courtesy of Gloria Scott