High blood pressure is a common problem and I have many clients who are taking medication prescribed by their doctors to manage blood pressure. What I’ve noticed is that most doctors treat blood pressure as a condition and not a symptom. Most of the time the patient has 10 minutes or less with their doctor and comes out of the office with a prescription that may or may not work. If it doesn’t lower their blood pressure enough, then they get another medication on the next visit. It feels like quite a trial and error process, and it’s frustrating to people.
Idiopathic Hypertension or Essential Hypertension refers to high blood pressure that has no explainable etiology or cause. Certain conditions can cause high blood pressure, such as kidney disease or tumors on the adrenal glands. When high blood pressure has a known cause, it is called Secondary Hypertension. It is estimated that in about 95% of reported high blood pressure cases in the U.S., the underlying cause cannot be determined.
I have patients who get very frustrated because they want to know WHY their blood pressure is high and what they can do about it. As with any symptom, the body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance when blood pressure is abnormally elevated. It makes sense to correct the cause of the symptom when possible, rather than just suppress the symptom. The difficulty is to determine what the imbalance is. However, simply suppressing symptoms can allow the imbalance in your body to continue unnoticed until a full fledged chronic condition takes over.
The elevation of blood pressure often represents an increase in vascular tone (tightening or constriction of the walls of the blood vessels). There are a number of mechanisms that could increase vascular tone. The response of your adrenal glands to stress can increase vascular tone. As we know from the work of Hans Selye, the body responds to stress by getting the body ready to fight or flee the perceived danger. Getting ready includes increasing the heart rate and constricting the blood vessels so that blood and oxygen can be quickly distributed to the muscles that need to react. Danger could be a wild animal ready to attack but it could also be an impending critical deadline in your job – the body responds the same no matter what the source of stress is. The body makes no distinction between psychological stress, biochemical stress and circumstantial stress.
Our bodies were designed for efficient coping with short-term, acute stress, but not designed for the chronic levels of stress that many people experience these days. Your body is meant to respond to a stressful situation, and then rather quickly return to a normal balanced state. So, chronic stress can keep your body out of balance, and managing your stress levels may be a key to managing your high blood pressure. Of course, there are many different relaxations techniques, exercises, and even herbal remedies to help your body relax and calm your body’s stress responses. I always say, ‘You may not be able to change the source of your stress, but you can change your body’s reaction to it.’
However, what if the source of your stress is not as obvious as a long To Do list or strained relationship? What if you reduce the stress in your lifestyle and still have the symptoms of being stressed? Sometimes, elevated blood pressure is the body’s response to high levels of inflammation and allergy from the environment or diet. Stress that comes from eating certain foods can trigger a reaction similar to other stresses. Corn, soy, milk or wheat are common culprits that create chronic inflammation resulting in elevation of corticosteroids. If food allergies are the trigger for your high blood pressure, then eliminating those foods should cause the blood pressure to fall within days, and return to normal when the food proteins are out of your system, within a couple of weeks.
If you desire to better understand high blood pressure and what lifestyle changes may help you take back your health, feel free to contact me for an appointment – I’d be happy to help!
To your health,