Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. High blood pressure happens when there’s an increase in the blood’s pressure on the arteries.  If this high blood pressure is persistent (chronic) it has serious implications.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and chronic kidney disease. If hypertension goes untreated, studies show that blood pressure will continue to rise and cause irreversible damage to the arteries, vision and kidneys.

Hypertension has few symptoms — until it’s too late. This silent killer affects 50 million Americans and over one billion globally. This deadly disease has a wide scope of victims, but if caught early, it can be managed effectively. Hypertension is one of the most preventable causes of chronic illness and premature death worldwide. [1]

Normal Blood Pressure

To understand hypertension, it’s helpful to look at how blood pressure is measured.  It’s connected with the heartbeat and there are two numbers in a blood pressure reading:

  • Systolic pressure (the top number) measures the force on the blood vessels when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Mercury was used in the first accurate pressure gauges and it’s still used in the medical world today as a standard unit for measuring pressure.

Once the cuff is taken off and you get a reading of your blood pressure, you can see where your results fall within the hypertension guidelines: 

Normal Blood Pressure: 120/80

  • Blood pressure within this range is considered normal. If your test results fall into this category, stick with good habits like regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Pre-Hypertension: 120-139/80-89

  • If your blood pressure readings are elevated consistently, you may be likely to develop hypertension unless steps are taken to reduce it.

Hypertension Stage 1: 140-159/90-99

  • Stage 1 hypertension exists when your blood pressure readings consistently stay within this range. At this stage, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Hypertension Stage 2: 160+/100+

  • If your blood pressure consistently stays within this range, doctors are likely to prescribe blood pressure medication and lifestyle changes.

Hypertension Symptoms

Many people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even when blood pressure reaches dangerous levels.

A few number of individuals experience some symptoms, such as:

  • Hypertension headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

However, these signs may not be attributed to hypertension, and they don’t usually surface until hypertension is at a seriously high range. This is why regular testing for hypertension should be a part of any health routine. [2]

Testing for Hypertension

To test for hypertension, a doctor will measure blood pressure in both arms, and may conduct repeated blood pressure readings, even over a 24-hour period. 

Types of tests that may confirm chronic hypertension include:

  • Brain Natriuretic Peptide testing uses a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the body and released by the heart. It tells when the heart is under stress and may confirm high blood pressure. [3]
  • Galectin-3 testing can help evaluate and manage hypertension. [4]
  • Urine testing shows when a person starts to spill protein in the urine, an indicator of chronic hypertension indicating kidney issues.
  • Cortisol Testing  can help evaluate the adrenal gland health and stress response.

Causes of Hypertension

There are two main types of hypertension:

1. Primary (essential) hypertension exists when there’s no clear cause of high blood pressure. This type often develops gradually over the years.

2. Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that is caused by an underlying health condition. It tends to appear suddenly and provoke higher blood pressure than primary hypertension. [5] Certain factors can provoke secondary hypertension, including:

  • Congenital defects in the blood vessels.
  • Sleep apnea can cause a reduction in oxygen, which may damage the blood vessel walls. Sleep apnea can also cause the nervous system to release certain chemicals that increase blood pressure. [6]
  • Weight gain causes an increase in blood circulation. This puts added pressure on artery walls.  Fat deposits also release chemicals (such as leptin) that increase hypertension. [7]
  • Pregnancy can cause temporary high blood pressure (pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia).
  • Medications and supplements. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause blood pressure. Natural or herbal supplements and illegal drugs may also induce hypertension in some people.
  • Polycystic kidney disease. With this genetic condition, kidney cysts prevent proper kidney function and raise blood pressure.
  • Glomerular disease. The microscopic filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys can become swollen, reducing function and causing hypertension.
  • Diabetes complications (diabetic nephropathy). Diabetes can also damage the kidneys’ filtering system, leading to hypertension.
  • Cushing syndrome. When the pituitary gland develops a benign tumor, it causes the overproduction of cortisol, resulting in Cushing syndrome. Besides other effects on health, hypertension can be a side effect of Cushing syndrome.
  • Thyroid problems. Hypertension can be the result of an underactive or overactive thyroid gland.

Other Risk Factors for Hypertension

Individuals who have a bacterial infection, chronic pain, heavy metal poisoning, [8] or problems with methylation pathways [9] are also susceptible to hypertension.

Types of Hypertension

Other than primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension (caused by an underlying health condition) there are other types of hypertension. Getting the correct diagnosis is important so your hypertension can be treated and brought under control. [10]

  • Renovascular hypertension. This type of hypertension is caused by shrinking access to arteries that supply the kidneys.
  • Malignant hypertension. Although high blood pressure is usually called the “Silent Killer”, this type of hypertension has obvious symptoms, such as:
  1. Chest pain
  2. Nausea or vomiting
  3. Numbness or weakness in arms and legs
  4. Headaches
  5. Reduced urination
  6. Blurry vision or other vision changes
  • Resistant hypertension. This type of hypertension seems to resist medications and is difficult to treat. There is often a secondary health condition that causes resistant hypertension. Some of these may include: hormone abnormalities, sleep issues, kidney problems, obesity or heavy alcohol intake.
  • Pulmonary hypertension. This type of high blood pressure affects the arteries in the lungs. This is a serious condition where the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs become stiff and narrow, forcing the heart to work harder.
  • Pseudo-hypertension. This type of hypertension often appears in older individuals and readings can be false because of calcification of the arteries.
  • White coat hypertension. High blood pressure readings happen only when a doctor is administering the test; If a person takes the blood pressure reading at home, the test is normal.
  • Isolated systolic hypertension. This condition affects older people and results from another condition within the body. In this situation, the patient has an elevated diastolic (lower) number in the blood pressure reading, which is more rare.

 

Hypertension Treatment  [11]

The current standard of care is to use medication to manage hypertension. Although this may be a great method to manage the masses, it simply does not address the root cause of high blood pressure. This is partly due to a broken system, including insurance reimbursement, where physicians are limited in time with their patients to discover underlying factors. 

The real question is to determine what is causing the hypertension in the first place

Similar to diabetes (type II), the patient’s lifestyle is often blamed. Even though lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and stress response do contribute to hypertension, like diabetes, this simplistic approach is flawed. Management of factors within our control is essential to long-term management of high blood pressure, but genetic, environmental and micronutrient factors should be included in the assessment of the underlying cause. 

Reducing the Risk of Hypertension

The truth is that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce blood pressure. Experts recommend these changes in lifestyle to effectively reduce hypertension:

 

  • Decrease Stress. Chronic, emotional stress such as anxiety, social isolation, depression and anger can be factors in elevated blood pressure. [12] Experts recommend taking time to consider your stress triggers and eliminate them, if possible.
  • Lose Extra Pounds. Blood pressure increases as weight increases. Weight loss is one of the most important and effective ways to control hypertension. You may reduce blood pressure by 1 mm of Hg for every two pounds of weight you lose. [13]
  • Exercise Regularly. Consistent physical activity (30 minutes a day) can lower blood pressure significantly.
  • Eat Healthy.The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) includes a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocadoes and whole grains. In addition to whole foods, it’s important to reduce caffeine, sodium and sugar in your diet. Even a small reduction improves heart health and reduces blood pressure.  Try adding spices instead of salt. You may be surprised![14]
  • Quit Smoking. One cigarette increases blood pressure and pressure levels stay high even after the cigarette is finished. When you quit smoking, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, improve overall health, and add years to your life. [15]

Common Hypertension Medications

In some patients, altering the lifestyle may not be enough or suitable, so medications are prescribed. Some of these hypertension drugs include:

 

  • Diuretics
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Renin/angiotensin system antagonists
  • Alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists
  • Other vasodilators (drugs that dilate the blood vessels)

Hypertension Supplements and Remedies

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be concerned about taking prescribed medication. The good news is: there are natural and effective ways to reduce hypertension.  Non-pharmaceutical supplements plus lifestyle changes can be powerful — and without nasty side effects. If you can control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle and natural supplements, you may be able to reduce, delay or avoid medication altogether. See a health professional for information on managing your hypertension with alternative remedies, including:

 

  • Spinal Alignment [16]
  • Modified citrus pectin can lower galectin-3 levels
  • Citrulline plus L-arginine have excellent capabilities in reducing blood pressure.
  • Magnesium has a direct impact on the regulation of blood pressure. [17]
  • Potassium is an important regulator of blood pressure. [18]
  • Berberine is beneficial for the proper processing of cholesterol and for heartbeat activity. [19]
  • Beetroot combined with taurine can be a successful natural vasodilator combination. Recommended dosage: one heaping teaspoon of powder two times per day, combined with half a teaspoon of taurine powder two times a day. [20]
  • Garlic can decrease excess LDL cholesterol particles and is a natural blood thinner. [21]

Wrapping It All Up

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common, treatable but often ignored disease. Though it often has no symptoms, it can be deadly. When diagnosed, it can be managed with lifestyle changes, natural remedies and medications. There are different causes, types and treatments for hypertension. Getting a correct diagnosis and becoming informed about hypertension is an effective first step on the road to better health.

 

**The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. Supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases- instead, they help maintain your long-term health.

    References:

    1. Hypertension: The Clinical Management of Primary Hypertension in Adults, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83291/
    2. Blood Pressure Test, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-pressure-test/about/pac-20393098
    3. Natriuretic peptide testing in clinical medicine, 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18708825
    4. Galectin-3: a novel blood test for the evaluation and management of patients with heart failure, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22249510
    5. Secondary Hypertension, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/secondary-hypertension/symptoms-causes/syc-20350679
    6. Obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension: mechanisms, evaluation, and management, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18367017
    7. Role of Leptin in Blood Pressure, 2006,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16612235
    8. Heavy Metal Poisoning and Cardiovascular Disease, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168898/
    9. DNA Methylation and Histone Modification in Hypertension, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5979462/
    10. Types of Hypertension, 2018, https://www.resperate.com/blog/hypertension/facts/definition-symptoms/types-of-hypertension
    11. Hypertension, 2004,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2217/
    12. Chronic Psychosocial Stress and Hypertension, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3694268/
    13. Effects of exercise, diet and weight loss on high blood pressure, 2004, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15107009
    14. Salt and sugar: their effects on blood pressure, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25547872
    15. Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Longevity, 2002, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447499/
    16. Effects of chiropractic treatment on blood pressure and anxiety: a randomized, controlled trial, 1988,   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3075649
    17. Magnesium and hypertension, 2005, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692166
    18. Effect of potassium intake on blood pressure, 1990,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2104250
    19. Cardiovascular and metabolic effects of Berberine, 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999047/
    20. Effects of Oral Supplementation With Nitrate-Rich Beetroot Juice in Patients With Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30244181
    21. Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Individuals, Regulates Serum Cholesterol, and Stimulates Immunity: An Updated Meta-analysis and Review, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26764326

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