Warning: The First Symptom of Hypertension is a Heart Attack! What to Do
The thing about high blood pressure is that at least 25% of folks who have it don’t know they have it.
It flies under the radar. No pain, no symptoms, though it’s often been quipped that the first symptom of high blood pressure is a heart attack.
About one out of three adults in the US has it.
And high blood pressure (or hypertension) is responsible for over 56,000 deaths a year in the US alone.
What to Do, What to Do?
Pretty much everything I know of value about hypertension I learned from Dr. Mark Houston, as did most of the nutritionists and doctors with whom I’ve trained.
He’s an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Hypertension Institute in Nashville.
“People concentrate on sodium restriction”, explains Houston, “but it’s equally important to look at the ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet”.
These two minerals have a symbiotic relationship, and the balance of the two is critical to good health. Unfortunately the American diet is woefully high in sodium and typically low in both potassium and magnesium, another mineral important for regulating blood pressure.
“Even if you had a very high sodium intake, you could negate some of the negative impact of that sodium by having a high intake of potassium and magnesium,” explained Dr. Houston.
The Institute of Medicine now recommends that adults consume at least 4700 mg of potassium a day to lower blood pressure and blunt the effects of salt.
Foods high in potassium include: Swiss chard, bananas, spinach, grapefruit juice, dried apricots, yams and sweet potatoes, avocados, and cantaloupe.
“I give my patients a specially modified version of the DASH diet that I believe is the best diet possible for people with hypertension,” Houston told me.
“The main change is to increase the amount of protein, vegetables, and ‘good’ fats consumed every day, while decreasing the grains, fruits, and dairy products. It’s much lower in refined carbohydrates and has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load. Otherwise it’s the same great, pressure-reducing program that’s helped so many.”
And What About Supplements? Glad you Asked…
There are a number of supplements that can help support optimal blood pressure. We’ve reviewed most of the products on the market and below we bring the cream of the crop for blood pressure regulation.
Coenzyme Q10 is widely given in Europe and Japan to millions of people suffering from cardiovascular disease. People with essential hypertension are more likely to have a CoQ10 deficiency than those without hypertension. It’s been an approved treatment for congestive heart failure in Japan since 1974, and Houston considers it one of the best natural treatments for high blood pressure.
Magnesium relaxes blood vessels. Large population studies have shown that the more magnesium people take in, the lower their blood pressure. Virtually every survey has shown that most Americans don’t even get the paltry amount of magnesium in the RDAs.
Whey protein is a natural ACE inhibitor, in addition to being a superb source of high-quality, absorbable protein. ACE inhibitors, short for angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, help reduce blood pressure by interfering with an enzyme that causes muscles surrounding the arteries to constrict, thus raising blood pressure. “Hydrolyzed whey protein lowers blood pressure,” says Houston.
“Vitamin D is very important in blood pressure control due to an effect on a hormone call renin, that controls blood pressure. If Vitamin D is low, renin is increased and this in turn causes the arteries to constrict and increase the blood pressure,” says Houston. He generally recommends 5000 IUs a day, or whatever amount is needed to bring blood levels up to 60 ng/ml.
Omega-3 fatty acids “… increase nitric oxide—a substance that opens up blood vessels—and they improve the elasticity of the arteries,” according to Houston. Use about 2 grams daily.
“Resveratrol also increases nitric oxide, lowers arterial stiffness and slows vascular aging”, Houston told me. We recommend 250 mg per day of trans-resveratrol, the active ingredient in resveratrol supplements.
This supplement program along with the dietary changes highlighted above (and some stress reduction couldn’t hurt either!) will help you maintain healthy blood pressure, protect your heart, not to mention lose weight and generally feel healthy and happier.
Wishing you health and happiness,
The Rockwell Nutrition Team