Science of Hypertension
Blood pressure is a produce of the pumping of the heart, the size of the blood vessel through which the blood must flow, the thickness of the blood, and the volume of blood to be pumped. A fast heart rate pumps more blood than normal and increases blood pressure. We call this tachycardia. Common causes of tachycardia are: stress, having poor cardiovascular fitness (being out of shape), caffeine, tobacco and dehydration. If the blood vessels tighten up or constrict, making the blood vessel size smaller, higher blood pressure is required to get the required amount of blood to its destination. We refer to this tightening up effect as vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction is caused by: psychological and physical stress, thermal stress from cold exposure, caffeine, tobacco, and dehydration.
Blood vessels normally expand and relax with each heartbeat. If the blood vessels become hard, their stiffness resists the free flow of blood and up goes the blood pressure. Atherosclerosis is an example of this process, so are sugar glycation, endothelial dysfunction, and stiffness of the blood vessels running through muscles from a sedentary lifestyle. If the blood becomes thick and sludgy, more pressure is required to carry it through the blood vessels and hypertension results. When blood gets thick we say that the viscosity has increased too much. Examples of the blood thickening threats include: dehydration, overeating, psychological stress, a diet too rich in fat and refined carbohydrates, and high blood cholesterol or triglycerides.
If the blood vessels are being choked by something pressing on them from their sides, the effect is like putting your thumb over the end of a garden hose, the result is increased blood pressure. We call this external compression. Things that press on the blood vessels include tissue swelling, atherosclerotic plaque, sugar coating called glycation (usually from diabetes), inflammation, and especially tight clothing like belts and elastic bands.
Finally, if the volume of blood increases, this increases the amount of blood entering the heart, which in turn increases the amount of blood leaving the heart and with each beat this increases the overall blood pressure. We often refer to this phenomenon as fluid retention. Lifestyle habits causing volume overload include eating too much salt, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poorly clad chilled extremities and kidney failure.
What is Hypertension?
What is Hypertension? The National Institute of Health is clear on the classification of blood pressure. Blood pressure is recorded as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. Systolic is a measure of the highest pressure the heart develops during its beat and diastolic is the lowest pressure when the heart is refilling with blood for another beat. Normal blood pressure goes no higher than 120/80. To go over 120/80, but no higher than 139/89 is to have pre-hypertension. Blood pressures over 139/89 are classified in two stages. Stage 1 hypertension is from 140-159/90-99. Any pressure of 160/100 or more is considered stage 2 hypertension.3 The higher your blood pressure the higher your chances of experiencing other life threatening complications of hypertension.
Cause of Hypertension
Many are chronically dehydrated1. People who drink plenty of water have lower blood pressures2. Many people suffer from high blood pressure; the cause of which is inadequate consumption of water. Constant dehydration forces the body to tighten the blood vessels and speed up the heart to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain and over time hypertension results.3 Not all hypertension is the result of not drinking enough water, but more of it arises from this cause than is realized.
Modern Medicine Guidelince for Hypertension Contrast the impact of this “national water shortage” with the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) guidelines for treatment of hypertension.3 Let’s say your water intake has been dismally inadequate and your brain is crying for better blood supply. The body responds with a faster heartbeat and tighter blood vessels to squeeze the blood more effectively up to the top of your head4. The doctor takes your blood pressure and (of course) discovers you have blood pressure that is higher than is considered safe. In line with practice guidelines the first line treatment is a diuretic; a “water pill”. You go home, the dehydration is worse (compounded) and on a return trip to the doctor you are again discovered to be not only hypertensive, but your heart rate is up. Guidelines now recommend a beta-blocker. With that you go home, your heart is now slow, but the brain is still crying out for blood so all the blood vessels in your body get even tighter to squeeze the remaining blood to the top of your head. Back to the doctor you go for follow up; low and behold the pressure is still up. The next recommended pill to fix the “resistant hypertension” is a calcium channel blocker. What does a calcium channel blocker do? It relaxes all the blood vessel in your body. You mean the ones that tightened up to get the blood to the top of my head? Yes. Now I must hand it to the NIH, the first line therapy is really supposed to be lifestyle modifications, but in my estimation the modifications listed and the extent to which they are applied or encouraged lacks enthusiasm. Okay, so, you can see that I am not “real big” on treating diseases you get from poor lifestyle practices with any other thing than correct lifestyle practices.
Save The Brain
People with normal blood pressure live longer,5,6,7 and what’s more, their thinking is clearer. Studying the brains of people with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, researchers have discovered an association between hypertension, brain white matter defects, and difficulty thinking and remembering.8 People with high blood pressure develop white matter lesions in their brains at ten (10) times the rate of the normal population.9 Controlling blood pressure with medications does not stop brain deterioration. Some blood pressure medications make the brain deteriorate even faster.10 In order to stop brain deterioration, lifestyle habits responsible for both hypertension and dementia need to be addressed.
Choosing A Blood Pressure Sensitive Dietary Lifestyle
In considering adopting a health promoting lifestyle, the vegan (plant based nutrition) diet has many blood pressure lowering advantages. In one study hypertensive patients, on blood pressure medications for 8 years, were given a vegan diet for one year. Blood pressures came down and the majority were able to stop or drastically reduce their medications.11 Just eating more fruits and vegetables is helpful, compared to those who do not eat many fruits or vegetables; those who eat largely of fruits and vegetables have a 77% lower risk of hypertension.12 Vegetables lower blood pressure and keep it from creeping up over the years.13 Vegetables known to be helpful in lowering blood pressure include: green leafy because they are high in magnesium and potassium,14 spinach15 because it is rich in folate, celery16 (eat it or drink it!), carrots17, ginger18 and broccoli19 because they relax blood vessels, beets20, basil21, garlic22 (supplement or whole), onions (eaten raw, but not cooked) significantly reduce hypertension.23 Not to be left out, fruit also lowers blood pressure.24 Fruits especially shown to have a positive impact on blood pressure include eggplant25, tomatoes,26 pumpkin or squash27 (which are high in potassium and low in sodium), cranberry (which has ACE inhibitory activity mimicking a popular blood pressure pill), 28 an apple a day,29 pomegranates, 30 grapefruit31 (which protect arteries, has diuretic activity and improves blood fluidity) and finally olives32 (which have calcium channel blocking and nitric oxide mediated vasodilatation benefits).
Deficiency of certain minerals in the diet increases the risk of hypertension. Iron: people eating a nutritious vegetarian diet providing sufficient intake of iron enjoy lower blood pressures. Iron from meat, know as heme-iron, is not helpful in this regard.33 Potassium: lowers blood pressure,34 but the most common blood pressure pill, a diuretic, lowers potassium.35 Calcium is needed to maintain normal blood pressure.36 Copper deficiency, a common result of eating refined carbohydrates,37 has been shown to cause high cholesterol hypercholesterolemia), high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia), hypertension, and glucose intolerance (diabetes).38 Magnesium deficiency precipitates hypertension.39 Mineral levels are decreased by alcohol, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas), coffee intake, by profuse sweating, by intense prolonged stress, by excessive menstruation and vaginal flux, by diuretics and other drugs, by certain parasites (pinworms), by sugar (refined carbohydrates) and by use of tobacco.
What’s For Breakfast?
Breakfast eaters experience lower blood pressures than breakfast skippers.40 In planning breakfast be warned of the “cereal killer”. Most processed breakfast cereals (dry or hot) have a hard time sustaining life and cause hypertension in laboratory animals.41 Choose whole plant based unrefined foods for a healthy, blood pressure friendly breakfast. If you cannot, by looking at the breakfast food, determine its identity (such as “O”s or flakes which do not resemble their origin), don’t put it in your mouth. It is much better to eat identifiable cereals such as granola, oatmeal, and other whole grain cereal foods.
The reason why refining foods causes so much hypertension is that fiber and minerals are removed in the process.42 Fiber from grains has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension by 40%.43 Vegetable fiber, 65 gm/day, can reduce your blood pressure by 12-14 points.44 Beans help lower blood pressure because they are low in sodium, have healthy fiber and contain the blood pressure lowering minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium.45 Even nuts are beneficial. A daily serving of nuts can reduce the risk of hypertension by 18%.46 The preferred variety is raw or dry roasted with little or no salt. Even “soy nuts”, a roasted soybean product, have been shown to positively impact blood pressure.47 One important antioxidant vitamin for addressing blood pressure is vitamin C. When blood levels are maintained from natural dietary sources, blood pressure drops,48 but not when blood levels are attempted through artificial (pill supplementation) sources.49 Diets high in this and other naturally occurring vitamins from fruit and vegetables lower blood pressure.50 One such diet is the Hawaiian diet. This diet is high in complex carbohydrate (77% of calories), low in fat (12% of calories), moderate in protein (11% of calories), and has been shown decreases in blood pressure as much as 10 points.51
One research group, wanting to maximize dietary impact on blood pressure management, put their patients on a six month 62% uncooked, fresh fruit and vegetable diet. The result was an 8 pound weight loss and a 18 mm Hg blood pressure decrease. In passing, the researchers noted that 80% of those in this study who smoked or drank alcohol abstained spontaneously. They reported increased sensitivity to alcohol, cigarette smoke, chemical odors, and medication. Several also had nausea, vomiting, and malaise after typical restaurant or banquet dinners.52 What kind of diet are we talking about? This is the original diet! “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” “and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;”53 “Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods, prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing. They impart a strength, a power of endurance, and a vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet.”54
Religion, Bible Study and Prayer Lower Blood Pressure
In stressful situations, prayer has been shown to lower blood pressure.55 Further, people who attend religious services,56 and pray or study the Bible frequently, have a 40% lower risk of hypertension.57 People who substituted religious media (TV or Radio) for personal experience and social contact with other believers suffered elevated blood pressures.57 Most people find wars and natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes stressful. In the wake of earthquakes and other stress raising natural disasters more people come down with high blood pressure.58 I would advise you to avoid this source of stress, but I would be misleading you if I asserted that these situations were going to become less frequent. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.” 59 In other words, you have not seen anything yet. And as we get closer to the second coming of Jesus Christ these things will be come more and more common. Stress management needs to be God derived to meet such impending devastation. Guilt and resentment cause hypertension. Guilt comes from sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.”60 "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13.)
The conditions of obtaining mercy of God are simple and just and reasonable. The Lord does not require us to do some grievous thing in order that we may have the forgiveness of sin. We need not make long and wearisome pilgrimages, or perform painful penances, to commend our souls to the God of heaven or to expiate our transgression; but he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy.
The apostle says, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." James 5:16. Confess your sins to God, who only can forgive them, and your faults to one another. If you have given offense to your friend or neighbor, you are to acknowledge your wrong, and it is his duty freely to forgive you. Then you are to seek the forgiveness of God, because the brother you have wounded is the property of God, and in injuring him you sinned against his Creator and Redeemer. 61
Patience and Forgiveness Lower Blood Pressure
People who cultivate the characteristic of patience enjoy much more normal blood pressures.62 This reminds me of a very important passage in the last book of the Bible, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” 63 A spirit of forgiveness has been shown to bring blood pressure down.64 “Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” 65
Life’s Pleasure: Helping Others
If you have some extra time and want to do something beneficial for your blood pressure, volunteering is a wonderful aid in keeping blood pressures normal.66 Find someone else who could use your help and give of yourself to the needs of the world. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 67
Summary: Letting Hypertension Go!
- Keep well hydrated with pure vitalizing water; add a little fresh lemon juice too.
- Take regular time for enjoyable exercise in the great outdoors, far from traffic, pollution, cities and stressful crowds.
- Get plenty of warm sunshine and invigorating fresh air.
- Eat a delicious unrefined whole plant based diet, high in fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants; low in salt, with no refined
- carbohydrates, processed fats, or hypertension causing animal products.
- Avoid the pitfalls of tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, fried foods, fructose, sodium, MSG and overeating.
- Make weight control a habit.
- Guard your sleep and evaluate its quality for effectiveness.
- Let God know you need Him to release you from stress, guilt, fear and hypertension. Rely on Him for guidance as you come more into line with His original plan for diet and lifestyle.
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53 Genesis 1:29; 3:18, King James Version of the Holy Bible.
54 White, EG. Counsels on Diet and Foods, Hagerstown Maryland, Review & Herald Publishing association (1938).
55 Belding JN, Howard MG, McGuire AM, Schwartz AC, Wilson JH. Social buffering by God: prayer and measures of stress. J Relig Health. 2010 Jun;49(2):179-87.
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59 Mark 13:8. King James Version of the Holy Bible.
60 1John 3:4. King James Version of The Holy Bible.
61 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p.37
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Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. JAMA. 2003 Oct 22;290(16):2138-48.
63 Revelation 14:12. King James Version of the Holy Bible
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anger. Int J Psychophysiol. 2008 Apr;68(1):51-8.
65 Ephesians 4:32. The King James Version of the Holy Bible.
66 Burr JA, Tavares J, Mutchler JE. Volunteering and Hypertension Risk in Later Life. J Aging Health. 2011 Feb;23(1):24-51.
67 Acts 20:35. King James Version of The Holy Bible