Why your occasionally high blood pressure is more dangerous than you think.
Susan's blood pressure was high only at times. Her doctor wasn't worried and suggested weight loss, a low-sodium diet, and relaxation exercises. These were all good ideas. But her doctor was missing an important clue to her health. He had overlooked the variability in her blood pressure. Susan had what we call episodic hypertension. And this increased her risk of having a stroke even more than constantly high blood pressure would.
It's difficult to fault Susan's doctor. Current guidelines advise doctors to just consider their patients' average blood pressure over time. But it's time for these guidelines to change. They are shortsighted in light of recent research. Three studies, along with a meta analysis The Lancet and The Lancet Neurology (March 13, 2010) recently published, found that variations in blood pressure were strong predictors of stroke risk.
One study looked at both high blood pressure and blood pressure variability in 8,000 people who had suffered mini strokes (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs). Those with the greatest variation in blood pressure over seven visits to their doctors were six times more likely to have a stroke.
According to Dr. Peter Rothwell, a neurologist and lead author of these studies, "Some people have very stable hypertension, in which case simple hypertension is all that matters. But variability and episodic hypertension is very common and matters much more than mean blood pressure in some patients."
The medical community considers high blood pressure a "silent killer" because there are no symptoms. There's no warning. No pain or feelings of anxiety. That's why so many people are surprised to find their blood pressure is higher than normal (120/80). It is easy to measure your blood pressure, either by purchasing a blood pressure cuff or by asking your doctor to check it regularly. Some drug stores offer free blood pressure monitoring as well. If your blood pressure is sometimes high and sometimes normal, don't be complacent and think you're fine. You may not be.
Both stable and episodic hypertension can lead not only to strokes, but to heart attacks, peripheral artery disease, and congestive heart failure. Fortunately, high blood pressure is one of the most treatable risk factors for serious conditions.
Is your hypertension drug raising your episodic blood pressure?
Not everyone needs medication for high blood pressure, but if yours is higher than 140/80, you may. First, determine whether or not you have either stable or episodic hypertension. Then discuss your options with your doctor. Here are a few of them:
Prescription drugs: All blood pressure lowering drugs are not the same, and some work better than others if your problem is occasionally high hypertension. Dr. Rothwell compared calcium channel blockers with angiotensin-converting enzyme (AGE) inhibitors and beta blockers. The calcium channel blockers worked best in lowering episodic hypertension, while beta blockers increased it.
AGE inhibitors include Capoten, Prinivil, and Altace. Beta blockers include Lopressor and Levatol. The most effective blood pressure lowering drugs--calcium channel blockers--include Cardizem and Procardia.
When you look at how calcium channel blockers work, you quickly discover that there may be a better solution. Calcium channel blockers simply prevent calcium from getting into the heart and blood vessel muscle cells. This allows the cells to relax, which lowers blood pressure. If you've read Women's Health Letter for long, you probably know there's a better way to relax your blood vessels.
Magnesium: I've talked at length about magnesium, and how we need more of this mineral and less calcium. Remember, calcium causes muscles to contract, while magnesium causes them to relax. In fact, magnesium is nature's natural calcium channel blocker.
You may be able to lower your hypertension simply by taking magnesium to bowel tolerance. It's an inexpensive possibility. But I have another suggestion. If you'd like a natural solution that's lowering blood pressure effectively, my recommendation is to use Dr. Isaac Eliaz's heart formula Circutol.
Circutol is a multi-faceted formula to support good heart health. It turns out that it's extremely effective in lowering all forms of blood pressure. I talked about this at length in the March 2010 issue. You can find the article on my website.
Basically, Circutol has reduced blood pressure in everyone I've given it to. My own blood pressure dropped from 134/90 to 112/64. No kidding!
Based on our clinical findings, I'm recommending two Circutol (available from Advanced Bionutritionals at 800-791-3395) morning and night on an empty stomach to lower blood pressure. And then take one capsule twice a day for maintenance.
Whatever you decide to do to lower your blood pressure, just know that variably high blood pressure is unsafe. Like constantly high blood pressure, it's a warning we all should heed.
University of Oxford (2010. March 21). "Variability as well as high blood pressure holds high risk of stroke." ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2010.s
RELATED ARTICLE: NUTRITION DETECTIVE
Readers Join in on Dry Eyes Solutions
Recently, I answered a question about dry eyes. Several people wrote me with suggestions I thought might be of interest to anyone with this condition.
E.P. said, "I tried preservative-free drops and Omega-3 supplements. They helped, but not enough. Then I heard about a possible connection to Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease. My doctor tested me for antibodies to Sjogren's and found I did, indeed, have this condition. I also have Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which 5-10% of people with Sjogren's develop."
This makes sense. Sjogren's is an autoimmune disease where immune cells attack and destroy the glands that produce tears and saliva. Dry eyes and a dry mouth are symptoms of this disease. It always helps to find the source of a problem rather than just the symptoms. If you have dry eyes, consider getting tested for Sjogren's syndrome.
G.G. wrote, "I used to suffer from dry eyes until I added GLA to my supplement program. The dry eyes disappeared, and I have had no further problem, except for a few times when I missed taking GLA for two or three days in a row."
GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) is a fatty acid found in borage and black current seed oils. Several studies found that GLA relieves dry eyes caused both by inflammation and by Sjogren's syndrome. It's an inexpensive solution that's worth trying. If you're taking Women's Vitality, you're getting 20 mg of GLA daily.
Keep your comments and questions coming. While I can't answer them personally, I read every one of them. And I'll use more of them in future issues.
For a complete listing of Dr. Nan's recommended dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, please go to:
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