The medical world has been battling heart disease for decades. But the major therapies, surgery and prescription drugs are usually more reactionary than preventative. And the best treatment of heart disease is prevention. Take for example, the risk factor systemic hypertension. Systemic hypertension affects 1 in 3 American adults, which amounts to an estimated 65 million Americans and many more worldwide. In fact, some would say hypertension is epidemic in our country. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you know the serious consequences of this disease. If you haven't had to deal with hypertension, you are probably thinking, So what?

What is Hypertension ?

Hypertension is the medical name for chronic high blood pressure. Our blood pressure rises and falls normally during the day, but when it stays high all the time, it causes major problems, including stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure is diagnosed with a blood pressure monitor during a regular doctor's visit: three consistently high readings (140/90 mmHg or higher) equal a diagnosis of hypertension. It is usually diagnosed this way because many times there are no symptoms. In fact, hypertension is nicknamed the silent killer because often, there are no clinical signs.

What can cause high blood pressure?

Well, in 90-95% of individuals, the cause is unknown. Risk factors, however, can include stress, poor nutrition, obesity, pre-hypertension (blood pressure readings between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg), and heavy metal toxicities. Some people with a family history of hypertension or African American descent are predisposed to developing the disease.
If you have predisposing factors in your life that could lead to high blood pressure, or you have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension, it is important to adopt a healthy lifestyle now to prevent development of hypertension. Also, there are holistic treatments available to lower your risk and assist in blood pressure regulation.

Recommended diet for individuals with Hypertension

First of all, determine if there is a cause for your high blood pressure. Secondly, commit to eating a healthy diet that is lower in salt, fat and sugar and higher in potassium, magnesium, fish oils, and fiber. Do you know that vegetarians, in general, have lower blood pressure and lower incidence of hypertension and other heart disease? Experts theorized that a vegetarian diet is rich in potassium, complex carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium and antioxidants, all of which have a favorable influence on blood pressure! Other foods that have been shown to be beneficial in treating hypertension include celery, garlic, onion, tomato, broccoli, carrots, and saffron.

Natural approaches to manage Hypertension

Nutritional supplementation with Co-Q10, a universal anti-oxidant, can treat high blood pressure on multiple levels, including reducing arteriosclerosis and regulating the rhythm of the heart. Clinical trials have also shown it improves chest pain and exercise tolerance in patients suffering from angina. Most people who have hypertension also are also deficient in Co-Q10, along with other essential vitamins and minerals such as Magnesium. If you are concerned about hypertension, it is important to talk with an integrative practitioner so they can design the safest and most effective supplementation regimen for you.
Maintain a healthy weight and establish a regular exercise regimen that includes 30 minutes of moderate activity 3-6 days per week. Limiting alcohol and managing stress are both tantamount: incorporated ancient relaxation techniques used in yoga and Tai Chi can be beneficial. Take time daily for meditation, stretching and deep breathing: the US National Institute of Health found transcendental meditation to be as effective in some cases as blood pressure medication.
And by all means, if you smoke, quit! If there is minimal or no response to changing your lifestyle or if your blood pressures run pretty high, anti-hypertension medication may be indicated: talk with your doctor or practitioner.
Consider being evaluated by an integrative practitioner for heavy metal toxicity: it is a little known fact that heavy metal toxicity contributes to hypertension. Chronic exposure to lead may be associated with increased heart disease, and cadmium (found in cigarettes) has also been shown to induce hypertension. Heavy metal testing can easily be done by a complementary physician through a hair sample or urine test and toxicity can be addressed.
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, there is still good news for you. A study reported in the British Medical Journal Lancet reported that for every five to six points that a person's blood pressure is reduced, the risk of heart disease is reduced by 20-25 percent, and the risk of stroke declines by 30-40%.
All of the above recommendations may apply to you even if you are managing the disease with blood pressure medication. Studies have shown that with positive lifestyle changes, proper nutritional supplementation and treatment of heavy metal toxicity, blood pressure regulation can be achieved by lifestyle changes alone once medication has lowered it to a safe level.
Remember that everything in your body is connected to everything else, and your heart is at the center. Nurturing your heart and associated systems is vital to your health. Yes, you may have genetic factors linked to heart disease, high blood pressure or a family history, but that is not the final word. Addressing your lifestyle holds the greatest promise for lifelong heart health.
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