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Earth Medicine: The Low-Down on High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a health risk for millions of Americans. But with a bit of common sense and a holistic approach you can prevent this silent killer from sneaking up on you or someone you love.

     The other day I was struck with a disturbing realization:  I am firmly ensconced in middle age. When and how did that happen? Once I settled myself down with the platitude that my age is only a number, I began to ponder the benefits of having more than a few miles on the 'ol tranny.

     We get discounts on stuff. We care less about what others think of us and we don't get our undies in a bunch over the least little thing. Because we've had many and varied experiences we're considered wise. People seek our counsel. We're comfortable in our own skin... even if it is sagging in a few places.  Did I mention we get discounts on stuff? Aging can be liberating in many ways.  However, there are certain health risks that may just increase as the years go by, and because we're so wise, we pay attention, right?

     One important thing we need to keep our eye on as we age is blood pressure.  Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is considered a "silent killer" --because it is.  Your blood pressure can run amok for years without your knowledge and then - bam -- it's too late. It's a key factor in stroke, heart disease, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and a third of us over a certain age don't even know we have it. Yep, this requires our attention.

     According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 American adults  --that's around 68 million-- has high blood pressure. Over half of those age 60 or older have it, and the risk of developing it over a lifetime runs at around 90%.  Ugh.  It may look like a gloomy picture, but hypertension doesn't have to be inevitable. There are sound prevention strategies and drug-free treatments....  so lets get busy with my 5 easy steps to healthy blood pressure.

1. Listen to Your Body; Clues Can Be Subtle

   Those who pay attention to the body's little whimpers that will inevitably precede a big cry of "uncle" will fare better when dealing with high blood pressure.  Clues will include shortness of breath, fatigue, sweating, dizziness... these are all signs that pressure may be climbing. 

2. You Are What You Eat

   There's no sugar-coating it: many cases of hypertension are caused by really lousy food choices. Processed foods high in fat and sodium, too much animal flesh, sweet treats, and fried foods all raise cholesterol and work against good health.... and I think that deep down we all know it.  A clean high-fiber diet and sensible portions will help create healthier happier cells, lower cholesterol, and likely lead to weight loss, which in and of itself can dramatically reduce your risk of hypertension.  The body needs a balance of fresh whole foods: veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and plenty of water

3. Yeah, Water

    Dehydration alone can raise blood pressure due to edema. This is where the body holds onto to water because it's just not getting enough. As the tissues swell with retained fluid,  the vascular system is pinched and pressure goes up.  This ain't rocket science folks.  Are you taking a diuretic drug to treat your hypertension? If so, chances are you've simply and chronically dehydrated yourself.  Now pay attention, this is important:  the human body needs half its body weight in ounces of pure, filtered water every day - minimum. Once you hit that mark you may initially spend a lot of time in the bathroom....  but that's actually a good thing. You'll be flushing away toxins and improving kidney health.  Trips to the powder room will settle down once you're well hydrated. By the way, soda doesn't count, nor do fruit juices, beer, Koolaid, coffee or tea. In fact, if you're taking caffeine in any form this increases your need for water because caffeine is extremely dehydrating to cells.

4.  Manage Stress

     We live in a fast-paced, high-pressure world. It's hard to escape it, but we can manage stress with just a little bit of effort. Exercise is --hands down-- one of the best things you can do for stress. Getting a good cardio workout on a regular basis reduces blood pressure and does wonders for your overall health.  Other great choices include yoga, thai chi, and one of my personal favorites... T-Tapp.   If your stress meter is constantly spiking, try long walks, bubble baths, prayer, meditation, good lovin', and herb teas.  Herbal tension-tamers that work directly in the central nervous system for a calming effect include lemon balm, scullcap, passion flower,  chamomile, and valerian.  Here's a shameless plug:  I custom design tasty herbal tea blends that are wonderfully effective.  Don't forget that high, ongoing stress levels will also raise cholesterol, and increase your health risk.

 5. Supplement Your Health

~ A high potency multi-vitamin / mineral with a good dose of the B-complex vitamins   These are essential because they nurture and balance function of the central nervous system. Additionally, if you've been under long-term chronic stress, your need for the B-vitamins in particular is dramatically increased. Keep in mind that it's virtually impossible to get nutrients in the theraputic concentrations you need from food alone.

~ Vitamin K2  There's been a lot of research into vitamin K2 as essential to vascular health. When we lack sufficient amounts of K2 the minerals we consume in food or supplements head for the vascular system, causing arteriosclerosis -or "hardening of the arteries" which is frequently a culprit in hypertension. A  K2 deficiency has also been linked to atheriosclerosis --arterial plaque. Think of K2  as a traffic cop, sending calcium and other minerals into the bones where they belong, instead of the arteries.

~ Enzymes  A lack of particular enzymes in the digestive tract leads to "sticky" blood, which causes the heart to work harder, raising blood pressure.  Taking digestive enzymes in supplement form at every meal will help prevent this sludging. Enzymes will also help prevent indigestion and more serious disorders of the digestive tract, as well as increase nutrient absorption.  Supplemental digestive enzymes are absolutely vital to good health, particularly if you're not eating enough raw fruits and vegetables. 

~ Treatments   Here's a list of time-tested natural treatments for hypertension.  Be smart: if you're taking prescription blood pressure drugs and want to try or transition to a natural therapy, check with your doctor first.  And don't run out willy-nilly and grab the first herbal you see. Do your research. Consult with an expert.

  •  Omega 3 (fish oil, preferably krill, sardine, or anchovy)
  • Ubiquinol (a more bioavailable form of coenyme Q10)
  • Garlic
  • Lecithin  
  • Cayenne
  • Hawthorn berry
  • Hibiscus

If you have high blood pressure there are a few herbs you should avoid: 

  • Licorice root
  • Siberian ginseng (aka eleuthero ginseng)
  • Yohimbe

If you're interested in natural therapies for hypertension or any other condition, you'll want to bookmark this link:  http://nccam.nih.gov/  That's the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, where you'll find science-based information on a variety of natural therapies.

As ever, if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to get in touch, or swing by our great little store in downtown Safety Harbor.  Bailey's Naturals, 470 2nd Street North.  The number is 727-725-1617 and you can always visit us online at http://www.baileysnaturals.com

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, nor should it be considered a substitute for the expert care of a qualified medical professional.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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