Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What ONE thing lowers blood pressure enough to eliminate 1 blood pressure medication?

Many people have high blood pressure.  Generally, high blood pressure has been defined as any reading above 140/80.  If you are less than 50 years old the line is perhaps more in the above 135/70.  The first number in a blood pressure is called the "systolic pressure" and is a measurement of how forcefully your heart is squeezing blood out into the body.  The second number is the "diastolic pressure" and it measures the heart at rest between beats.  The only time a heart muscle gets a rest is that fraction of a second between beats.  While both numbers are important, when the lower number is high the more stress it puts on your heart.  High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, but more damaging is the effects on the blood vessels.  High pressure on arterial walls is like sandpaper rubbing the inner sensitive lining with every beat of the heart.  If you have ever used a pressure washer to blow moss and dirt off your deck or driveway, you know that high pressure does a better job than just spraying with the hose.  If you've ever hit your bare leg or foot with a pressure washer you know that pressure can actually cut into your skin.  Arteries are susceptible to high pressures and get damaged.  The body heals this damage using cholesterol, plaque, and clotting.  The repair job decreases the inner size of the vessels raising blood pressure further and creates the potential for loose particles to break off and get stuck in smaller vessels leading to a blockage.  You don't want blockages like this to happen in your brain, lungs, or heart!  Or rather, your family doesn't want it because they might well end up living without you.  The good news is you don't have to die!

A Word About Medications
If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure for long, then you are probably on a blood pressure medication -- or several.  There are five drug categories with perhaps nearly 50 different medications for high blood pressure treatment.  They all possess side effects, so the fewer medications you have the better!  Typically, you will be started on a diuretic, this decreases the volume of blood.  Less water in the hoses equals less pressure.  The right diuretic can have the least side effects.  If blood pressure isn't controlled with a diuretic then different drug categories are added until the pressure is in an acceptable range.  It is not unusual for people to be on two or three different drugs.  The truth of the matter is that for many people - most or all medications can be avoided with some lifestyle changes.

How to Avoid Drugs
  1. Losing weight will decrease blood pressure.  Typically, for every ten pounds you lose you will be able to drop one blood pressure medication.  Carrying extra weight puts an extra burden on your heart in the same way it would if you carry a 10 or 20 pound sack of potatoes with you everywhere you go.  To make this kind of deep impression on your psyche try that!  Buy a 10# sack of flour or potatoes and carry it with you an entire day.  Are you taking a blood pressure medication (with its attending side effects) just so you can carry an extra ten pounds that you really don't need?
  2. Exercise improves heart function.  A more efficiently beating heart reduces the pressure and how fast your heart has to beat.  A normal resting heart rate is 70-80 bpm.  A struggling cardiovascular system will show a higher rate.  A well conditioned cardiovascular system will be below that.  Many marathon runners have resting heart rates in the 50's.
  3. Eliminate refined and processed sugar.  Think of sugar as extra grit grinding against the walls of your blood vessels.  Combining sugar and high blood pressure is a serious recipe for a heart catastrophe.  Elevated sugar levels contribute to bad cholesterol more than ANY other dietary ingredient!  Bad cholesterol makes gloppy paste that the body goo-s on to damaged artery linings to protect itself.  Don't muck up your smooth, sleek arterial walls with damaging sugar and cholesterol goo!  Take the sugar out!
  4. Get your stress under control.  Exercise helps with it.  Prayer and meditation help with it.  Identifying sources of stress and eliminating those sources help.  Doing at least one FUN and ENJOYABLE activity a day helps with it.
 Four simple life tasks that do require a bit of will power, intentionality, and desire to love yourself and your family enough to do.  Is the decision that difficult, or the effort that impossible?

NatureWords for your Health,
Dr. Mark

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