High blood pressure is the most commonly diagnosed medical condition in the United States. When you are diagnosed with hypertension, in most cases you are automatically placed on high blood pressure medication without considering the underlying cause. Unfortunately, these medications while among the top 10 prescribed drugs are associated with many undesirable side effects. It is far better to address the underlying cause, in fact, research shows that diet and lifestyle are just as effective or even more effective than medications.
It is vitally important to get high blood pressure under control, as it is associated with heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. To further complicate matters, high blood pressure can easily go undiagnosed for years as it does not always present with symptoms until damage has already been done. So, it is important to have blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
Taking a functional medicine approach looks for the underlying cause of high blood pressure instead of simply trying to lower it. Factors to consider include genetic predispositions, nutritional deficiencies, environmental triggers and dietary and lifestyle habits. These include things like:
- Nutrient deficiencies like magnesium, CoQ10, biotin, vitamin-D, vitamin B1 and choline.
- Toxic or heavy metals like mercury
- Nutrient imbalances like potassium/sodium balance
- Chronic inflammation
- Elevated blood sugar
- Hormonal imbalances
There are several lab tests that should be considered for all high blood pressure patients. Lipid panels are routinely ordered, however, they almost never test lipoprotein(a). Studies have identified Lp(a) as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In addition, some chronic inflammatory markers associated with overall heart health are Ferritin, Fibrinogen, and c-Reactive Protein (HS) also called hs-CRP. Two oxidative stress markers to test are Homocysteine and Coenzyme Q10. Homocysteine is used to assess methylation function associated with vascular disease and CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant most prominent in the heart that regulates cardiac function as well as protects against arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. As previously mentioned, it is also very important to test magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These should be tested in the RBC and not the serum. These nutrients play a significant role in blood pressure regulation. Also, test toxic elements in the whole blood such as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Our environment is more toxic than ever before and many people have regular exposures to these on a daily basis. Moderate to high levels of these metals in the circulation can significantly impact blood pressure.
To further demonstrate the importance of nutrients, consider the following:
Dr. Peter Langsjoen, a Texas cardiologist, published a study reporting the benefits of CoQ10 in patients with high blood pressure that was incredible. He selected 109 patients with hypertension and added a high dose of CoQ10 to their current blood pressure medication. Over 80% of these patients had been on blood pressure medication for over a year and 50% had been on one or more blood pressure medications for over 10 years. The dose was adjusted to achieve a CoQ10 blood level of greater than 2mcg/ml, which was an average of 225mg of CoQ10 a day.
A gradual improvement in blood pressure was observed between the first 1 to 6 months and within 6 months of CoQ10 supplementation, 51% of the patients came completely off 1 to 3 blood pressure-lowering medications.
There have also been similar results in patients after correcting potassium and magnesium deficiencies.
If you know someone with high blood pressure, please share this information with them as traditional medicine never considers or investigates the causes of hypertension.