The Most Commonly Ignored Cause of High Blood Pressure
The CDC estimates that 29% of adults (one in three) in the US have high blood pressure.1 Unfortunately, many people who have high blood pressure are not aware of it. The National Institutes of Health defines high blood pressure as any pressure above 149/90, and prehypertension as any pressure above 120/80. It is common for doctors to put their patients on medications while they are in the prehypertension phase without encouraging any lifestyle changes, even though multiple studies proved lifestyle changes can be as effective as medication for lowering blood pressure.2
I want to be very clear that high blood pressure must be treated. Period. Allowing chronic blood pressure to remain elevated and untreated can lead to permanent physical damage and may result in death. The potential dangers of high blood pressure means it can be dangerous to refuse high blood pressure medication when a physician prescribes it. My encouragement is to use the medication while making lifestyle changes, and to then work with your physician to determine whether or not you can reduce the dose. Consider the medication a potentially temporary necessity. Reversing high blood pressure requires a commitment to making multiple lifestyle and eating style changes, but many people are able to work with their physician to reduce or sometimes eliminate their blood pressure medication after making the changes.
High blood pressure always has a cause. Mainstream medicine often addresses the symptom without taking time to determine its cause. My personal philosophy is that it is imperative to figure out WHY a symptom developed in order to correctly address it. Potential causes of high blood pressure vary, but may include (among other things) food allergies, excess alcohol consumption, obesity, systemic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, cardiac disease, high blood sugar, insufficient cellular oxygen, and many others. If diagnosed with high blood pressure, accept the prescription and then work with your physician to determine why your body raised blood pressure. High blood pressure doesn’t just happen. The body always has a specific reason for raising blood pressure. Take time to figure out the cause.
Sadly, medical literature rarely mentions the most common root cause of hyptertension: Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells stop absorbing insulin the way they should. This may occur due to chronic high blood sugars, excess consumption of sugars and high-glycemic carbohydrates, or other metabolic imbalances. When the body produces high amounts of insulin over a long period of time, the body’s cells can become “overwhelmed” by all the insulin and stop absorbing insulin in the quantities the body needs. Insulin is an inflammatory chemical, so the cell’s reduced absorption of insulin is a protective measure, but Insulin Resistance can have devastating results including elevated blood sugars, magnesium deficiency, vision problems, and more. For more information on the potentially negative effects of insulin, please read Surprising Facts About Insulin.
Insulin resistance may cause the following situations, each of which can cause high blood pressure:
- The cell’s refusal to absorb the insulin in the blood stream means the blood stream contains excess insulin. Insulin is extremely inflammatory, so the excess insulin in the blood stream may cause blood vessels to become inflamed. It is harder for the heart to pump blood through inflamed blood vessels, so this situation can quickly increase the pressure inside the vessels and may lead to measurable high blood pressure.
- When insulin is not adequately utilized, the blood stream may also become filled with excess sugar. Sugar is highly acidic and causes inflammation. In the presence of high blood sugar, the body will elevate blood pressure to help it more efficiently attempt to lower the amount of sugar in the blood stream. Raising blood pressure also helps the body more efficiently carry oxygen to the tissues.
- One of insulin’s primary functions is to carry magnesium into the cells. If the body reduces the amount of insulin it absorbs, the body’s cells therefore cannot absorb the amount of magnesium they require. magnesium’s most important job is to relax the blood vessels to maintain normal blood pressure. When a person is deficient in magnesium, it is likely the person will develop high blood pressure. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes usually have insulin resistance and a magnesium deficiency. They therefore have a 90% chance of developing high blood pressure. Some doctors automatically prescribe blood pressure medication to their diabetic patients. These physicians assume there is no way to avoid high blood pressure in the presence of any form of diabetes. They are wrong. As someone who has had Type 1 diabetes for almost 50 years, I know high blood pressure can be avoided and/or reversed because I’ve done both.
- Excess insulin can cause water retention. When water is retained in the tissues, it is more difficult for the heart to push blood through the vessels. The body therefore raises blood pressure to pump the blood more efficiently through tissues experiencing water retention..
Many people who have hypertension also have Insulin Resistance. I believe there is no such thing as “hereditary” high blood pressure. As the old adage states: Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. (Anonymous.)
So what lifestyle changes can potentially benefit insulin sensitivity and high blood pressure? Here are my top three starting recommendations:
- Exercise! Even ten minutes of exercise (three to five times weekly) is known to improve insulin sensitivity for four or more hours.
- Eliminate most grains and sugars (including natural ones) for one to three months. Grains are metabolized into simple sugars that can make insulin resistance worse. Eliminating grains and sugars can help the body re-set its insulin sensitivity. This dietary change, combined with other lifestyle changes, can help the body lower blood pressure.
- Discuss with your physician the possibility of taking daily magnesium and/or potassium. (Take a form of magnesium other than oxide, as it cannot be absorbed by the body and is worthless as anything except a laxative.) Magnesium and potassium are known to help relax the blood vessels and may help reduce blood pressure. For more information on the importance of magnesium, please read Why You Need More Magnesium.
The above steps are merely a starting point. There are other options that may help. If you have high blood pressure and wish to lower it using natural methods, please find a natural practitioner who can assist you. Until then, please keep taking your blood pressure medication and make sure your blood pressure stays within normal limits.
1: Nwankwo T, Yoon SS, Burt V, Gu Q. Hypertension among adults in the US: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief, No. 133. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services, 2013.
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