Lindsay’s blood pressure was in the danger zone, and she had no idea it was so high…
I met Lindsay almost 20 years ago, when she consulted me for help and guidance with losing weight. Though she had been avoiding the bathroom scale for several months, she wasn’t surprised to find that she had added 25 pounds to her petite frame – but when I took her blood pressure, she was shocked. It was 190/110, way too high… And hypertension didn’t run in her family.
Then she shared her heartache with me: very recently, she discovered that her husband was having an affair. She felt betrayed, enraged, and lonesome. No wonder her blood pressure was so high.
If you’re experiencing high blood pressure, you may have been surprised when you found out. It’s extremely common to have virtually no indication that your blood pressure is higher than it should be. In the instances where I’m the first doctor to detect hypertension, the vast majority of these patients had no idea. Maybe headaches on occasion, but we often discover their headaches were due to stress, muscle tension, or chronic neck pain…
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 32% of all adults (about 75 million people) have high blood pressure. Women over the age of 60 had a much higher incidence of hypertension – 65%[1c]
Since the incidence rises with age, checking your blood pressure on occasion is a good idea. It’s as easy as sticking your arm into the machine at the drugstore. Units for home use are relatively affordable as well (by the way, Lindsay was only 42 when we detected her high blood pressure). I’ll be sharing her path to healing near the end of this article.
More statistics from the CDC:
- Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.
- About 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension – blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not yet in the high blood pressure range.
- Only about half (54%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
- High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 Americans in 2014 – more than 1,100 deaths each day.
- High blood pressure costs the nation $48.6 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat high blood pressure, and missed days of work.
The CDC is a great resource for these staggering statistics. And here are their recommendations for controlling high blood pressure:
- Taking medication
- Reducing sodium in the diet
- Daily physical activity
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight (if you are obese)
What’s Unique About Women Over 50?
Let’s take a closer look at each of the CDC recommendations…
Medication: If you’re at all like the women I work with, taking medication for the rest of your life is an option you’d put on the very bottom of your list. So many of my female patients have parents who are on several medications, and these women do not want to follow in their footsteps.
Low Sodium Diet: Dietary sodium is rarely an issue, I’ll explain why later.
Daily Physical Activity: Absolutely. Is there a best type? You bet. I’ll be diving deeper into optimal ways to move your body in an upcoming post. If you suffer with arthritis, joint pain, or chronic fatigue, I understand the difficulties of adding exercise to your day. These challenges are common, but there are natural solutions available.
Quit Smoking: If you’re struggling with this one, you’ve got to get serious. Nicotine is such a tough addiction to break, so ask for help! If you haven’t tried acupuncture, find someone trained in the NADA protocol.
Lose Weight: For most of the women I work with, this is one of the most challenging objectives to conquer. When you are nearing menopause, or if you are post-menopause like me, your body has changed (you KNOW this, don’t you?)… So what worked in your younger years probably won’t work now.
Beyond these suggestions, I’m going to be letting you in on what I do in my private practice – things you won’t hear from your conventional doctor.
What Are Healthy Ranges for Blood Pressure?
These are the accepted ranges for blood pressure:
- Normal, Healthy: 120/80 mmHg
- Pre-Hypertension: 139/89 mmHg
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): 140/90 mmHg or anything above
What to Do About White Coat Syndrome
“White coat hypertension, more commonly known as white coat syndrome, is a phenomenon in which patients exhibit a blood pressure level above the normal range, in a clinical setting, though they don’t exhibit it in other settings.”
We see it in our clinic quite often… Houston traffic could be at fault. If we take vitals first thing and blood pressure is high, we’ll repeat after the acupuncture treatment. Almost every time, we see a significant drop in blood pressure, sometimes all the way down into a normal range.
You can monitor also your blood pressure at home. Take it at various times throughout the day and keep a log. You’ll likely see patterns, probably related to stress.
How Dangerous Is High Blood Pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, you just can’t take it lightly. The complications of high blood pressure, if left unaddressed, are potentially quite serious.
- Brain: Stroke, aneurysm, and cognitive decline, including loss of memory and focus
- Kidneys: Chronic kidney disease
- Cardiovascular: Heart attack, heart failure, peripheral artery disease
- Eyes: Retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye)
These potential complications deserve to be taken to heart, but the key is discovering whether or not you have it in the first place. Just check your blood pressure periodically! If it’s high, you’ll be able to get it under control – hopefully with one or more of the non-drug options I list below.
Other Medications That Can Cause High Blood Pressure
If you’re taking any of the drugs listed below, make sure you are checking your blood pressure regularly.
- Analgesics (Pain Medication)
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), such as Advil and Motrin
- Indomethacin (Indocin)
- Piroxicam (Feldene)
*** If you suffer with pain, depression, or allergies, it’s very likely that lifestyle changes could reduce or eliminate your need for medication. In addition, working with someone who offers natural approaches, such as acupuncture and functional medicine can also be very helpful.
What Should You Do if You Are Taking High Blood Pressure Medication?
Keep taking it. If you’re on antihypertensive medication, of course you’re aware of the side effects. So read on, because by implementing a few of the following tips, you could reduce your need for medication, and possibly eliminate it entirely. Any doctor would agree that the lifestyle improvements of weight loss, stress reduction, exercise, and a healthier diet can lower your blood pressure. You know this. I’m about to reveal some protocols and strategies I use in my clinic – a few that you just might not know about.
Lifestyle changes, such as those I’m going to reveal to you in the tips below, can take up to several weeks to lower blood pressure. So, I always recommend that the women I work with get on medication right away if they have high blood pressure. Once the healthy changes have had a chance to take hold, it’s a good bet you’ll be able to lower your dose. Many of the women I see end up coming off their medication altogether – but everyone is different. For certain individuals, blood pressure lowering drugs will be necessary. Discuss this with your doctor.
Lindsay’s Path to Healing
Lindsay had made a decision to take medication, all the while remaining engaged with her deep commitment to heal herself. I suggested she view the drug as a raincoat, something she would wear to keep her dry and warm… Something she would shed when the stormy weather passed. To this, Lindsay added several sessions of acupuncture, and I focused on her heart meridian. The heart represents our capacity to love (especially the self), to be compassionate, and to feel connected with all of life. It contains the capacity to heal.
I held a healing space for her, reminding her of what she already knew. Betrayal, anger, and loneliness were feelings she could tolerate feeling… Then she would move through them. She could trust in the innate wisdom of her body to lead her to a state of harmony, and her current symptoms – the signals from her body – were messages she chose to embrace.
Healing is about becoming whole.
Lindsay’s blood pressure returned to normal. She came off the medication. In six months, she lost the 25 pounds.
Prevention of High Blood Pressure
I know that if you don’t have high blood pressure, you’d love to prevent it.
Practice the causes of good health, so you don’t ever develop high blood pressure.
If you are above your ideal weight, if you aren’t as active as you know you should be, if your stress level is high, or if your diet needs a tweak, you could be at risk for developing hypertension. Consider adding a few of the recommendations below as preventative medicine.
5 Ways to Lower and Prevent High Blood Pressure
Before I share the tips to support your physiology, take time to give consideration to any “heartache” you may be experiencing. High blood pressure is a symptom (or a sign) of an underlying imbalance. It may be in the body, but the heart, the psyche, and the spirit may each be attempting to capture our attention. In fact, my years of study, training, and practice have led me to a deep conviction that within every single diagnosis of “dis-ease” lies a caveat for us from our bodies. Listen, and you’ll discover a personal truth, a yet to be fulfilled desire, or a deep need to be met. Get into action with these tips to care for the beautiful temple in which you live.
Studies continue to support the efficacy of acupuncture for many health conditions, including high blood pressure. By addressing the root cause of your hypertension, acupuncture can reduce stress and aid your body in returning to a state of harmony and inner balance.
2. Key Supplements
- Vitamin D3: Lower than ideal levels of Vitamin D is a known risk factor for high blood pressure. Because having optimal levels of Vitamin D is so crucial to many aspects of good health, I highly recommend testing – and I suggest a combination of exposure to sunlight and supplementation if your levels are too low.Recommended Dose: 2000 – 5000 iu/day. This is typically a maintenance dose, even if you’re getting frequent sun exposure. In my Houston practice, I’ve rarely seen a patient with optimal levels. With marked deficiencies, mega-doses are used – anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 iu/week. You really need to be tested. Nearly every conventional physician is now ordering this as a routine test on annual blood screenings.
- Potassium: Studies support that a higher intake of potassium is associated with lower blood pressure.  With a little focus and planning, most of us can obtain our requirement for potassium from our diet. You probably know that bananas are a great source. Avocados, sweet and white potatoes, spinach, and halibut are other foods rich in potassium – but it’s still possible that you may need to supplement.Recommended Dose: 2,000–3,000 mg/day
- Magnesium: As a required nutrient for a tremendous number of reactions within the cells of the body, this high demand means magnesium deficiency is common. Many studies have correlated the supplementation of magnesium with lower blood pressure. Some dietary sources are spinach, beet greens, and nuts – oh yes, and also chocolate. Because magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and gentle laxative, I also recommend It for chronic pain, insomnia, and constipation. Preferred chelates for best absorption are citrate, malate, or glycinate.Recommended Dose: 500 mg/day. Doses up to 1000 mg/day can be beneficial if you can tolerate it (some people will experience loose stools at a higher dose – I recommend you experiment to determine your threshold, or bowel tolerance).
- CoQ10: This nutrient is one I recommend for cognitive function and energy, but because many people who have high blood pressure may also be on a statin, I’m listing it here. Even if you aren’t taking statins, CoQ10 will help your mitochondria, (Read More) which are in very high concentration in the cells of your heart muscle. The ability of your body to make this nutrient declines with age, as does your body’s ability to convert it into its active form, Ubiquinol. So, check closely – you want to make the investment in the best form if you are going to take it.Recommended Dose: 100 – 200 mg Ubiquinol, not Ubiquinone.
I use a liquid extract compound that contains hawthorn, ginkgo biloba, linden, and ginger. I believe that the hawthorn is the key ingredient. If you’re not currently on medication for hypertension, I suggest consuming it as a tea. Because hawthorn is very effective in reducing blood pressure, it is known to interact with vasodilating medications, drugs used for heart failure, hypertension, angina, and arrhythmias. So, you need to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re taking any of these medications.
Recommended Dose: This will depend on both the form of supplement you use and the condition you use it to treat. You are a unique individual. Your metabolism and physiology will determine your needs. A knowledgeable health practitioner can guide you.
4. Celtic or Himalayan Salt
Switch from table salt to either of these types of salt, both of which are high in several minerals required by the body. I find that most of my patients with high blood pressure rarely have a sensitivity to salt. I’m certain that when they go on a low sodium diet, they end up drastically reducing their intake of fast food, processed food, and junk food. Eating a diet that consists of more fresh, whole foods will reduce blood pressure and improve overall health.
A recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, showed that “UVA decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow and heart rate in humans, which is beneficial to the cardiovascular system. This is likely mediated by UVA causing release of nitric oxide (NO) from skin stores.”
Getting some sun exposure, no sunscreen (but do protect your face and décolleté), will raise your levels of vitamin D3.
- [1a] High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet from the CDC
- [1c] Hypertension among adults in the US
-  Liu D, et al. UVA Irradiation of Human Skin Vasodilates Arterial Vasculature and Lowers Blood Pressure Independently of Nitric Oxide Synthase.J Investig Dermatol. Jan 2014. Published online at http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v134/n7/full/jid201427a.html
-  The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28024910
-  The effect of vitamin D supplementation on blood pressure in patients with elevated blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25350782
-  Overview of Hawthorn http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-527-hawthorn.aspx?activeingredientid=527
-  What Are the Signs, Symptoms, and Complications of High Blood Pressure? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/signs
Vit D3 Testing: anylabtestnow.com