I heard a representative on a Humana commercial say “Our Doctors have the best percentages of properly diagnosing disease, that means, we do a better job of keeping you healthy.” Let’s think about this for a moment because it is to become my message to you on this blog over and over again. Read that quote again and really think about it. Does properly diagnosing disease keep you “healthy?” Is it your insurance companies job to keep you “healthy?” Is it your Doctors job to keep you “healthy?” I say NO! America has become a society of dependent victims. It is YOUR JOB to keep you healthy, end of story. We are so far off the track of healthy in this country that I’m not sure we can ever find our way back. I begin this discussion about keeping yourself healthy and leaving everyone else out of it by discussing one of the biggest health problems in America. Nearly 30% of Americans are reported to have high blood pressure, and you know there’s a big percentage out their who haven’t been diagnosed.
It is the most common health problem that I see listed on Health History charts in my clinic. Second only to high cholesterol, which will be a future post. The number of Americans with high blood pressure is sky rocketing, it went up nearly 10% from 2005 until 2009. It’s not surprising, considering that the obesity rates are also climbing and the lack of preventative medicine in America is pathetic. We no longer look at what can be done to prevent high blood pressure or how to treat it naturally when it occurs, we prefer to medicate it with pharmaceuticals. By using those medications, we ignore the warning signs that our body is giving us and we cover it up, continuing to live the way we want to, eating too much, exercising too little, being over stressed, drinking too much alcohol and often eating all of the wrong foods.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you need to be ALARMED. High Blood Pressure can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and overall damage to the heart and it’s surrounding arteries. I recommend monitoring it, being aware of it and I will even go as far as to say that I recommend being very afraid of it. It’s a warning sign from your body that something is off, something is out of balance and needs your attention.
Unfortunately for many Americans, many, many years of bad health and poor habits have lead them to this place and it’s tough to say, okay, change everything you’re doing right now. Not only will they not do it, most of them aren’t interested in making those big changes. For instance, let’s take a 65 year old man who has been over weight since he was in his 20’s. He has become accustomed to it, he knows he should lose weight but it would require too much change. Now, add to it that he can’t exercise because he has bad knees ( partially due to the extra weight he’s been carrying for 40 years) and now you have extra weight stressing the body and a lack of exercise. If this man happens to eat out at restaurants often or eats fast food often, it’s a guarantee that he’s ingesting too much salt, yet another risk factor. If he drinks alcohol or smokes, he’s a virtual recipe for a heart attack or stroke due to high blood pressure. If this man goes to a Western Doctor, he’s likely to be prescribed at least one high blood pressure medication, if not two. The biggest problem that I see is that he continues to live the same life style, hoping that the blood pressure medication will save him. Lisinopril is one of the most common high blood pressure medications. It’s very common to experience severe joint pain while on this medication, as well as severe muscle cramps. Ironically, many of the patients who are prescribed this medication to control their BP, already have joint pain chronically, due to being over weight. This medication not only exacerbates their pain but it makes it nearly impossible for them to feel good enough to begin an exercise regimen. The list of side effects is so long that it’s disturbing, they go as far as acute kidney failure and liver toxicity, which are rare but they do happen and I believe that they happen more often than the pharmaceutical companies want us to believe. These average Americans end up in my clinic all too often asking me, can acupuncture help my knee pain? Can Acupuncture lower my blood pressure? You do the math.
First, I would love for you to take 4 minutes to watch this great visual from Dr. Oz describing what high BP does to your heart and your arteries, then, below, I’ve listed my suggestions for lowering your BP naturally, without prescriptions meds. However, if you’ve been prescribed a prescription to control your Blood Pressure, it is imperative that you continue to take it, until you have discussed going off of it with your Doctor and under that Doctor’s supervision. I have to say that, my malpractice requires it.
I hope you took the time to watch that, now, let’s talk about diet, prevention and personal treatment of high blood pressure without going the pharmaceutical route.
First and for most, if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you need to be on a mission to get your weight to a healthy range. Counting calories and exercising should be like a job to you for the rest of your life. 1500-2000 calories a day, with at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, of cardio, 5 days a week. Once you’re on that track and committed to it, then, move on to the next steps.
One is drinking a glass of beet juice every day. Now, you already know that I’m a juicing freak, here’s my favorite recipe, which has beet juice in it! Drink it daily, if you’ve been diagnosed with high BP, even if you don’t like beets, the apples sweeten it and make it more palatable.
You must increase your potassium intake, which is easily done by eating any of the following, here is a list of the foods highest in potassium and no bananas is NOT number one, it’s actually last on the list and not the one that I would recommend.
1. white beans
2. dark greens ( spinach, kale, collards, chard)
3. baked potatoes ( with the skin on, that’s where the potassium is!)
4. dried apricots
9. pasticcios ( but all nuts are good!)
10. Okay, okay , bananas
Adding these foods into your diet will get you more potassium and more potassium can keep your muscles ( including your heart muscle) healthy and strong. If you don’t think you can possibly eat any of these foods, at the least, get a potassium supplement. Vitacost.com is the cheapest place, check out the ad, here on this page to find an inexpensive supplement that works for you. Food is always a better way to get your nutrients, but if you just can’t get the foods in and your BP is high, definitely, have a supplement close by.
Let’s talk about salt. I don’t meant the salt you shake onto your eggs in the morning, I mean the salt you don’t see, what’s already in your food. Salt raises your blood pressure. Too much sodium makes your kidneys and your heart work harder. We should be eating 1500-2300 mg a day, the older you are, the lower that number. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, I challenge you to count your sodium for one day, then let me know the results in the comments! I couldn’t believe it when I counted mine!
Magnesium! I take it everyday and so should you. We are, as Americans, totally depleted in magnesium. It is so good at helping the arteries to relax, the heart itself, being a muscle, is also nourished and calmed by magnesium. It’s a natural muscle relaxer, a natural laxative ( yup, be careful how much you take! ) It can even help prevent and treat chronic headaches. I prefer the powder form, so that I can control the dose, here’s a post I wrote about magnesium deficiency.
There are so many magnesium supplements out there! Here’s my favorite and it’s the most affordable, by far.
STRESS… Americans are crazy stressed! It’s not normal. The only way to combat it, other than changing your life, which isn’t usually possible, is to find therapies that work for you. Acupuncture is relaxing AND it helps invigorate your blood, all while helping the body redistribute fluids …. thereby taking the pressure off the kidneys and heart. A win win, GET ACUPUNCTURE!! Other stress lowering modalities that I LOVE are yoga ( especially hot if you have high BP) and meditation, to help slow your heart rate and calm your mind.
You might read a little buzz out there about Hawthorn, an herb to lower blood pressure. I’ve preached on this before, in Chinese Medicine and herbology, we use FORMULAS, not one single herb for all things. Hawthorne is known in Chinese Medicine as Shan Zha. In Chinese herbology, we would never just give someone hawthorn berries to lower their Blood Pressure. The berries are sweet and also warming to the body ( meaning they’re good for digestion) but we want to ensure that we aren’t warming the body while lowering the BP. If a patient of mine has high BP but also has a heat syndrome, clearly, they need hawthorn to be mixed with another cooling herb, in order to make it work for them, without creating another imbalance. I have a brilliant formula that I use, through Evergreen, my favorite herbal distributer. If you have high BP and you want to try herbal treatment, please, go to a board certified herbalist, in your area, and use them and their expertise to your advantage. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, call me, I’m happy to help.
If you smoke, STOP. I mean it, it constricts your blood vessels making your heart work harder, guaranteed. I can’t even imagine continuing to smoke, knowing that I have elevated BP. I was a pack a day smoker for many years and I know how hard it is to stop but you have to stop. I will write a future blog post about quitting, I’m sympathetic to a point, but if you’re suffering with high BP, no excuses, STOP SMOKING!
There are families where high blood pressure is chronic and apparently genetic, if not genetic, then predisposed. That certainly isn’t a reason to write off all of the above suggestions and just live recklessly, figuring, it’s in my family, no matter what I do, it’s going to happen to me. Not necessarily. Families come with habits and trends. If your parents were obese and had poor eating habits, you are more likely to do so, if your parents were uber stressed and raised you in a chaotic, stress filled environment, you are likely to follow that path as well. If high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease runs in your family, break the mold, make a change in your family. Some people say, “I’m the first person in my family to graduate college.” Okay, why can’t you be the first person in your family to NOT take high blood pressure medication? How about the first person in your family OR at least, in generations, to NOT be overweight? What a great legacy for you to pass on to your children or to prove what is possible when you take responsibility for your own health!
I will hop on my soap box just one more time during this post and say, YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. It’s not your Doctor’s responsibility to take care of you, it’s YOURS. The Doctor is great to take your blood pressure and give you the information about where you stand with it, but then, it’s your job to do everything within your power to protect your heart and your body and get that blood pressure down.