Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note, where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week we’re going to talk about high blood pressure, which is very close to home for me because I myself have been watching my own blood pressure rise over the years.
Mine hasn’t been climbing at an alarming rate, but there was some high blood pressure in my parents so it’s something I’ve been looking at and monitoring.
Blood pressure tends to get higher as you age. I think it’s because as you get older your arteries get harder. It’s why I went from having a perfect calcium score 10 years ago to having some calcium in my coronary arteries when I rechecked it recently. As you get older you’re trying to fight the aging process, and part of that is preventing the hardening of your arteries.
My main goal here is to get you guys thinking about blood pressure, as it’s so common to have elevated blood pressure.
You want it to be at or below 119/79.
If either one of those is up, you need to take note.
One thing I’m encouraging all my patients to do is get their own blood pressure cuff. Most of the ones you can get online work pretty well. The automated cuffs seem to be a bit more consistent.
Use it frequently! There’s a lot of myths out there about blood pressure. I want to go over a few of them with you, and then give some recommendations and thoughts on things you can do for high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Myths
Myth #1: It’s not a big deal.
It’s a really big deal. High blood pressure is a major cause of strokes and heart attacks. Many think it’s not a big deal because you can’t feel it. You don’t “feel” high blood pressure. That’s precisely why it needs to be monitored, and why it’s been dubbed “The Silent Killer”.
When your blood flow puts too much pressure on its vessels it can cause damage to your heart, brain, kidneys, and all your major organs.
Myth #2: There’s no good treatment.
There are great treatments out there. You need a plan, and it’s not just medications that can help. There’s a lot of great natural things you can do, which I prefer if you can do it. Anything natural I prefer.
Myth #3: A little high blood pressure is “OK”.
You can’t be half pregnant, and being a pre-diabetic is just as bad as having diabetes. Having slightly elevated blood pressure is harmful too. It just takes longer to do its damage.
Myth #4: High blood pressure cannot be prevented.
This is totally wrong. You are not destined to your genetic predispositions.
Simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, losing weight, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly can help you prevent high blood pressure.
Myth #5: Treatment is difficult.
Not really. There are lots of medications. I like to start patients on natural things, much like the lifestyle changes I mentioned above.
But there’s other things too. It turns out that Potassium is really good for high blood pressure.
It works the opposite of Sodium. Potassium moves in, and Sodium moves out of the cells. This relaxes blood vessels. So think about taking Potassium. I take the LifeExtension Magnesium that also has Potassium in it. This combination has a great effect on lowering blood pressure.
There’s a lot out there around sodium causing high blood pressure. I’m not a big fan of too much salt. You don’t want to eat refined salt, although I am okay on unrefined sea salt.
Other things that can be really helpful are increasing your water intake. You can practice your breathing. We’ve been talking a lot lately about nose breathing and how beneficial that is for your health. Do daily exercise like walking. Infrared saunas can relax blood vessels and also help you detoxify.
There are some herbs that help: Turmeric, Garlic, Cinnamon, Flaxseed, Ginger, and Hawthorne. Garlic is the number one herb for preventing cancer too.
Things that can increase your blood pressure: Alcohol, Caffeine, NSAID’s, Birth Control Pills, Antidepressants.
Prescription Medications for High Blood Pressure
There are a vast variety out there that are heavily promoted through pharmaceutical companies. Try the natural stuff first, but if you have to I’m fine with some of these medications if there aren’t too many side effects. I’ll briefly go over a few of them.
ARBs – These are my favorite because they don’t seem to cause the side effects that the others do. I’m not against patients taking these. In fact, I have a lot of patients on these.
ACE Inhibitors – These are a long standing first line treatment of blood pressure. They do protect kidneys. In about 20-30% of cases they can cause a dry cough.
Beta Blockers – Thought to be cardio protective. They also help arrhythmias. They can make you tired, and can cause sexual dysfunctions. They’re not what they’re cracked up to be.
Alpha Blockers – These directly relax the arteries. They’re potent, but can make you feel pretty bad.
Calcium Channel Blockers – Really potent for relaxing arteries, but can cause a lot of side effects like swelling, fluid retention, constipation and fatigue.
Diuretics – Gets rid of fluid for those who have a lot of fluid retention. They work better in women, and those who tend to retain fluid. You have to watch your electrolytes closely with these. This isn’t a complete list, but they’re the main ones.
Note: When you take any prescription medicine you need to know how they work, side effects, and what kind of blood monitoring needs to be done with them.
The message here is to test yourself. Check your blood pressure regularly, and bring those numbers in when you see your doctor. I can’t emphasize enough how important controlling your blood pressure is.