Updated: May 11
One billion people worldwide are affected by high blood pressure. It is considered the leading cause of cardiovascular disease killing around 7.5 million people worldwide every year!
If you or a family member is a sufferer, please be sure to read on and share. This information could save a life!
1. Did you know?
When your blood pressure reading sits at or above 130/80 it is considered hypertension. It used to be at or above 140/90.
The damage from having consistently high blood pressure can not only cause heart failure and stroke, but also kidney failure and visual problems, including blindness.
2. Resorting to medication is not the answer. You need to identify and address the underlying cause or causes.
Focusing on lowering numbers with medications is largely not working. Around 30% of all deaths globally are due to cardiovascular disease!
There are many causes of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Underlying most, if not all is our lifestyle and environment. We all know diet and obesity are major contributors and with nearly one third of the world's population being obese or overweight, we have a huge problem on our hands. But ultimately if we want to reduce our risk of early death (or even risk of Alzheimer's and dementia) it is vital we take a look at our lifestyle and address any hidden causes, like infection and toxicity.
3. Were you aware of some of these causes of hypertension?
Nutrient imbalances and deficiencies - especially low levels of magnesium, potassium or taurine.
Hormonal imbalance - particularly decreased testosterone.
Infections - bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic. Even periodontal disease.
Fatty acid imbalance. The omega 6 to omega 3 ratio should not be higher than 2:1 ideally.
Sugar handling issues. Diabetes, insulin and leptin resistance.
Kidney or adrenal dysfunction.
Heavy metal toxicity.
4. Let's discuss a few of these:
It may surprise you to know that nutrient deficiencies are not just the result of a crappy diet high in alcohol, sugar and processed foods that are inflammatory and void of nutritional value. Those with a healthy plant based diet can still be nutritionally depleted due to poor gut absorption. For example: smoking, pesticides, medications, surgery, food allergies and infections can interfere with the gut's ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Detoxification essentially means cleansing the blood. Your body's ability to detox can be impacted by poor function of not just the liver and kidneys but your intestines, lungs, lymphatic system, and even skin. Therefore good gut health is important in order to eliminate toxins adequately through your stool. Allowing your body to sweat removes toxins through your skin.
Methylation also impacts our ability to detoxify.
This vital biochemical process is used to recycle the molecules your body needs for detoxification. If methylation is working well you eliminate toxins better, your DNA is protected, inflammation is more likely to be kept in check, and your mood is better maintained.
However approximately 40% of the world's population are thought to have the MTHFR gene mutation. Most without knowing it. This mutation can cause issues with the methylation in our body, leading to essential bodily functions becoming disrupted – which include the ability to eliminate toxins properly.
Infections and heavy metals are thought to damage the walls of arteries, creating scarring. Cholesterol then acts as a band-aid to patch up the damage. But doing so can sometimes lead to arterial blockages and stiffness, and high blood pressure.
You'd think that lowering cholesterol with statin medication is therefore a good solution. However cholesterol is needed to make certain hormones and it is an important building block for cell walls. Plus it's not really the cholesterol's fault, is it?
Please don't buy into the myth that lowering cholesterol (even to rock bottom levels) eliminates the risk of heart attacks. It simply reduces the risk.
Lowering cholesterol without addressing the underlying cause can in fact be dangerous.
See also...The Benefits of High Cholesterol.
5. There are more advanced blood tests to assess your cardiovascular risk than what's on offer through your GP.
Those with high cholesterol are thought to have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
You may have heard of the terms LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol. You see, cholesterol is transported around the blood vessels by these "lipoprotein" particles, like a tiny boat carrying cargo.
The conventional thought is that HDL is the "good" carrier as it removes cholesterol from the arteries. LDL is considered the "bad" carrier as it ships cholesterol to the arterial wall where it can potentially form a plaque.
When LDL is measured in standard blood tests, they are not measuring the lipoprotein particles themselves, but the cholesterol content of the particles (or the amount of cholesterol stored on board). A 'bad" cholesterol level is then determined by this stored cholesterol on LDL particles (LDL-C) or by measuring all the cholesterol stored on lipoproteins, except for HDL (called non-HDL).
However large scale studies suggest that for up to 20% this is not an accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk!
"Some people with high LDL cholesterol may actually be at a low risk of heart disease and are therefore potentially treated unnecessarily. And in the same way, some individuals with low LDL cholesterol levels can be at an extremely high risk – yet remain untreated due to a lack of diagnosis".
One way to "count" the exact number of LDL particles (not cholesterol) is to determine how much of a protein molecule called apolipoprotein B100 (ApoB) are present. They are attached to each LDL particle. This has been shown to be a superior predictor of cardiovascular disease. Yet because of the cost, many countries have not implemented it into their guidelines, with the exception of Canada.
There are also different sub-types of HDL and LDL. LDL-1 and LDL-2 are less of a problem than the smaller stickier LDL-3 to LDL-7 particles. High levels of oxidised LDL is also more dangerous. These can also be measured in a blood test.
You may be able to request these tests through your GP and pay the appropriate lab fees. Or you can seek help from a functional medicine practitioner who will also help identify and address any underlying cause(s) of your hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Blood tests your GP should include in a cardiovascular assessment (with no additional charge) include CRP (C-reactive protein), fibrinogen, homocysteine (can indicate an issue with methylation and high inflammation), iron, glucose, haemoglobin A1C and insulin. None of these should show elevated levels. (Please note that the functional medicine optimal reference ranges are usually very different to standard lab test reference ranges).