For doctors who specialize in natural medicine, hypertension isn’t just a simple disease of high blood pressure readings, and treating it isn’t simply a matter of lowering the numbers using high blood pressure remedies, says Dr. Mark Houston, MD, a well-known integrative hypertension specialist. Hypertension is a slowly progressing cardiovascular “syndrome”—as opposed to a disease—and it arises from complex and interrelated causes, he notes.
The key role of endothelial dysfunction
Most importantly, says Dr. Houston, the hypertension syndrome is a sign of what is known as endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is a single layer of cells that lines the inner walls of the arteries. It performs many functions that help control blood pressure, such as regulating blood vessel constriction, inflammation, anti-oxidant activity, and the ability of plaque to form within the arteries.
It is when endothelial function becomes imbalanced and dysfunctional that blood vessels constrict too much and release inflammatory and pro-oxidant (as opposed to anti-oxidant) compounds into the body. This leads to high blood pressure and sets the stage for plaque to start forming in the arteries—a recipe for heart disease, strokes, and other dire cardiovascular disease outcomes.
Additional signs of hypertension syndrome
Besides endothelial dysfunction, the hypertension syndrome (persistent high blood pressure readings) as described by Dr. Houston can include any of the following elements:
- abnormal blood sugar and/or insulin metabolism
- kidney function changes
- blood clotting changes
- enlargement and dysfunction of the heart’s left ventrical
- accelerated plaque formation in the arteries
- decreased elasticity of the arteries
- abnormal lipid metabolism (high cholesterol)
A myriad of influences can disturb this balance, according to Dr. Houston, including many vitamin and mineral deficiencies, genetics, inflammation from any source, and oxidative stress.
Early markers of hypertension
Often, early markers are present before blood pressure readings become elevated. According to Dr. Houston, two of the most important early markers are:
- High sensitivity C reactive protein (hsCRP): This can be measured with a simple blood test and is the best marker to detect blood vessel inflammation. This important biomarker predicts cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from any cause. It is part of a vicious cycle that links inflammation with high blood pressure. Even small increases in hsCRP are reflective of increased endothelial inflammation which increases blood pressure readings over time. Fortunately, there are many natural high blood pressure remedies as well as nutritional and lifestyle therapies that have been proven to lower hsCRP. For instance, fish oil, anti-inflammatory foods, potent polyphenols like pycnogenol (pine bark extract), and even moderate exercise and stress reduction techniques can lower hsCRP.
- EndoPAT™ test: This test helps to identify problems with the arteries that may occur before blood pressure readings become elevated. The EndoPAT™ test identifies endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium can become dysfunctional even with normal blood pressure readings of around 120/80. It is a 15-minute non-invasive test performed in the doctor’s office that uses fingertip sensors before and after a blood pressure cuff temporarily stops blood flow through the brachial artery of the arm. Certain natural high blood pressure remedies as well as diet and lifestyle therapies have been found to successfully treat endothelial dysfunction.
Treatment for hypertension syndrome
Treatment for the hypertension syndrome, according to Dr. Houston, should always start with non-drug therapies first. He stressed that exercise, weight reduction, smoking cessation, restrictions in the use of sodium, alcohol, and caffeine, and other lifestyle changes must be incorporated to maximize healing and fend off heart disease and stroke.
Research-based high blood pressure remedies
In terms of natural high blood pressure remedies and supplements, Dr. Houston describes how the scientific evidence for the use of certain nutraceuticals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals in the treatment of hypertension is substantial and growing rapidly.
Specifically, he discusses the usefulness of the following natural high blood pressure remedies:
- Vitamins and minerals: vitamin B-6, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E (especially high gamma/delta tocopherols and tocotrienols, zinc
- Herbs: hawthorne berry, ycnogenol (pine bark extract)
- Amino acids: taurine, L-carnitine, L-arginine, N-acetyl cysteine
- Essential fatty acids: omega-3s (EPA and DHA), omega-9s (olive oil), gamma linoleic acid (GLA)
- Foods: celery, garlic, seaweed such as wakame, pomegranate, whey protein
- Antioxidants: CoQ-10, alpha lipoic acid
Start healing your arteries now
If you would like to heal your damaged arteries AND have lower blood pressure readings, consider increasing your intake of any of the foods, antioxidants, and other high blood pressure remedies listed above. For more information, see the following articles:
- Fight High Blood Pressure Symptoms with Garlic
- Pomegranate Juice to Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Your Heart Health
Originally published June 3, 2013.