Of all the illnesses that make up cardiovascular diseases (CVD)—such as heart
attack, stroke, angina pectoris, atherosclerosis, and arteriosclerosis—high
blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the most common. It is also a
condition about which many North Americans are complacent.
This is a
riddle. Hypertension may be common, and we may not worry about it, but
it can be deadly. Hypertension can result in serious conditions such as
kidney disease to traumatic and often tragic events such as stroke,
heart attack, and even death.
So why the laid-back attitude? Do we
just not care? It may be because of how hypertension "works." It is
quiet—there is no evidence of the disease until it has progressed to the
point at which a crisis occurs. Its treatment is not without a physical
cost—much of the medication used for hypertension has uncomfortable and
troubling side effects. Nor is its treatment of short
duration—hypertension therapy is generally lifelong.
treatment does not have to be uncomfortable—hypertension can be lowered
through three things that have no negative side effects (and actually
have positive side effects); three things for which you may not have to
pay extra because you use them as a matter of course; and three things
that you may actually enjoy. These three things are diet, supplements,
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
diet is low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; rich in
fruits, vegetables, and fiber; and contains small amounts of nonfat
dairy products and meat, fish, poultry, or nuts. Hypertensive volunteers
who followed this diet for eight weeks saw a significant reduction in
blood pressure—the same reduction as experienced with some drug
therapies. The Harvard Health Letter (January 1998) notes that
this diet "significantly and quickly lowered blood pressure in
hypertensive participants … ."
One nutrient that may contribute
much to the DASH diet is potassium. In the clinical trials for the DASH
diet, subjects received 4,700 mg (4.7 g) of potassium per day; the
control subjects received only 1,700 mg (1.7 g) per day. Indeed, the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends
consuming 3,500 mg (3.5 g) of potassium a day. The best sources of this
are foods such as orange juice, bananas, potatoes, prunes, and yogurt.
Harry Preuss, M.D., has been studying garlic’s effect on hypertension at
Georgetown University Medical Center. Although he has been studying a
number of different garlic types, he has been particularly impressed
with the Allium ursinum species of garlic, which is also known as
alpine wild garlic.
In an interview in conjunction with Dallas
Clouatre, Ph.D., Dr. Preuss notes that wild garlic "worked beautifully
as far as blood pressure [is concerned]" in rat models.
Drs. Preuss and Clouatre believe this is due to an ACE-inhibiting
property. Simply put, ACE is an enzyme that may lead to increased blood
pressure. Rat studies show that wild garlic inhibits this enzyme,
resulting in lower blood pressure. When Dr. Preuss measured angiotensin
II, which causes blood vessels to contract (resulting in greater
pressure), he found that rats fed wild garlic had one-half of this
substance compared to control rats.
Dr. Preuss also found that wild garlic works on the nitric oxide system.
An increase of nitric oxide in blood vessels causes them to
vasodialate—to expand. This, of course, also helps to reduce blood
pressure. The combination of ACE inhibition and nitric oxide synthesis
may be why alpine wild garlic works so well. As Dr. Preuss notes, "There
are medical reasons why wild garlic is reported to have this
Finally, getting some form of exercise
is beneficial—there is ample evidence that weight loss and exercise
positively affect blood pressure.
Richard D. More, M.D., Ph.D.,
writing in his book The High Blood Pressure Solution,
notes that in some studies, weight loss in the obese led to normal blood
pressure in three out of four people, and that no drugs were used. Moore
also notes that losing excess weight "has been reported to lower
elevated blood pressure even more effectively than drug treatment with
Exercise alone, with no weight loss, also affects
blood pressure. Moore again reports that in one program 105 hypertensive
patients undertook a walking program, starting with walking one mile and
working up to running two miles. One-hundred and one of the 105 patients
had significant drops in blood pressure, and 50 percent of those who had
been using antihypertensive therapy were able to discontinue their drug
If your "pressure is on," take control of your health by
working with your health practitioner to develop a new lifestyle. A
lifestyle that includes diet, judicious supplementation, and exercise.
|What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a
measure of the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. It is read
with two numbers, systolic and diastolic, which are often just referred to
as "top and bottom." The top number, systolic, measures blood pressure when
the heart is pumping out blood. The bottom number, diastolic, measures blood
pressure between heartbeats, that is, when the heart is not pumping, but at
The usual cause of high blood pressure is a persistent increase in
resistance to blood flow through the smaller branches of the arteries, which
carry blood from the heart throughout the body. Why this happens is unknown
95 percent of the time.
*If your systolic and diastolic
pressures are in different categories, your risk depends on the higher