The most commonly diagnosed medical condition in the United States is high blood pressure, or hypertension, and blood pressure medications are among the top 10 most commonly prescribed drugs. However, these medications can cause undesirable side effects. It’s better to address the underlying causes of high blood pressure—research shows diet and lifestyle changes are just as effective or even better than medications in lowering high blood pressure.
Why should you be concerned about high blood pressure? High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. Thirty percent of the population has high blood pressure, and another 30 percent has pre-hypertension, or somewhat elevated high blood pressure. Men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure before the age of 45, but after 65 the ratio reverses. African Americans and Mexican-Americans are at an increased risk.
Diet and lifestyle changes most effective approach
Instead of treating symptoms, address the actual causes of high blood pressure for lasting better health. Studies have shown that lifestyle changes alone can reduce risk of heart disease by a dramatic 90 percent. Lifestyle interventions influence the fundamental biological mechanisms leading to all chronic disease. For instance, regular exercise is one of the best ways known to control high blood pressure. Other important factors include a whole foods diet rich in plant fiber and low in sugar and sodium, maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI less than 25 is ideal), not smoking, and managing stress, such as through yoga, meditation, walking, and laughter.
Adding the functional medicine approach
In functional medicine, we look for why the person has high blood pressure rather than simply at what can be done to lower it; it’s a person-centered approach, versus a disease-centered one. Factors to consider include genetic predispositions, nutritional deficiencies, environmental triggers, and lifestyle habits, such as:
- Deficiencies in nutrients such as biotin, vitamin D, vitamin C, B1, choline, magnesium and CoQ10.
- Toxic levels of mercury.
- Hypothyroidism: Appropriate management of a thyroid condition such as autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can normalize blood pressure.
- A lack of dietary potassium and too much sodium. Balancing these nutrients can help balance blood pressure.
- Magnesium deficiency. Many people are deficient in magnesium, which can help relax the blood vessels.
- Chronic systemic inflammation.
- Elevated blood sugar and metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes), which are related to hypertension.
- Hormonal imbalances, such as an estrogen deficiency, can lead to high blood pressure.
By addressing these and other factors, a functional medicine approach addresses the root cause of high blood pressure. Research has shown that up to 62 percent of high blood pressure patients were able to go off their anti-hypertension medications and maintain normal blood pressure by making diet and lifestyle changes. Eating a whole foods, vegetable-based diet and avoiding processed foods will help keep you sufficient and balanced in the right minerals to support healthy blood pressure.
If you would like support figuring out how you can address the root cause of your high blood pressure consider scheduling a complimentary initial consultation.