Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition I see often in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice. It is diagnosed when a patient has chronically elevated blood pressure in their arteries, measured by a blood pressure cuff over multiple measurements on different days. Hypertension typically doesn’t have any symptoms, although some patients are able to tell when their blood pressure is elevated. Chronically elevated blood pressure must be addressed because over the long term, it puts the patient at risk for heart disease, stroke, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Although there are other health conditions that can cause Hypertension, in most cases lifestyle is a major cause. Lifestyle factors can definitely influence blood pressure, such as stress, being overweight, being a smoker, high salt intake, alcohol intake, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Genetics also play a role in developing Hypertension.
I generally measure blood pressure in my patients as a screening on their first or second visit. Blood pressure must be taken after the patient has been sitting for a few minutes (not after rushing into my clinic after driving in rush hour, or after discussing something stressful), with their back against the chair and feet flat on the floor. The blood pressure cuff must fit properly. If a high reading is obtained, a 2nd reading on the 2nd visit will be obtained, and if not too high, maybe even a 3rd reading on the 3rd visit. In order to rule out “white coat syndrome“, where the patients blood pressure increases when taken be a health care professional, patients are often told to monitor their blood pressure several times a day for a week at home. I usually will ask the patient to bring their monitor into my clinic so we could double check the accuracy of their monitor.
Often times an MD will send their patient home with a 24 hour monitor to evaluate their blood pressure readings over a 24 hour period in order to avoid unnecesarily putting a patient on medication.
Naturopathic Medicine has a lot to offer in the treatment of Hypertension. Keep reading below to find out more about the different treatment options I use in my practice!
Diet and Nutrition for Hypertension
Diet can play a significant role in your blood pressure. A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables is very important, and you always want to choose a variety of colourful fruits and veggies. Vegetables should fill half your plate at lunch and dinner. When you do eat fruit, combine it with some nuts or seeds (unroasted and unsalted is best). Minimizing fried food and high sugar foods is also important, as well as minimizing refined grains (white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries etc), and instead choosing complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, sweet potatoes), lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey), and high fibre foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains). Every meal and snack should contain lean protein, to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and therefore lowering insulin levels. If you have a high salt diet, reducing your salt intake would be beneficial for you as well. Minimal alcohol intake is beneficial as well.
Lifestyle changes for Hypertension
Your regular day to day routine can definitely impact your blood pressure. Stress management tools are vital to balancing your blood pressure (talking to your support system, yoga, meditation), as is exercise (cardio and weights). If your blood pressure is elevated it is important to get screened by your MD to ensure that exercise is safe for you, and your MD may test you with a treadmill stress test, EKG, and/or echocardiogram, to ensure that exercise won’t put more stress on your heart and your blood vessels and put you at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Smoking and alcohol impacts your blood pressure as well, as does poor sleep. Weight loss could help if indicated. Lifestyle changes will be dependent on the patients health history and specific circumstances.
Vitamins and Supplements
There are so many options here in treating patients with high blood pressure. What I prescribe is dependant on my patients symptoms but I usually use vitamins and minerals, fish oils, and antioxidants, chosen to ensure they do not interact with any health conditions the patient has or medications or other supplements they are currently taking. You can read more about Vitamins and Supplements here.
Herbs for Hypertension
There are quite a few options with the herbs I can use, for heart health, anti-inflammatory, stress reducing, quality of sleep, and so much more. Again herbs are chosen carefully to ensure there is no interaction with existing health conditions or other medications/supplements the patient is on. You can read more about herbs here.
This is a good option to use in adjunct with other treatment options for reducing blood pressure, along with reducing stress levels, improving sleep, digestion, mood, and so much more. I use acupuncture very often in my practice for a variety of conditions. You can read more about acupuncture here.
Food sensitivity testing
Testing for foods that could be contributing to inflammation in your body is a good option for optimizing health and blood pressure. I do the test via a finger prick in my office, and the results take 2 to 3 weeks to come back. Once we have a list of foods that could be causing a problem, the patient will eliminate these foods and we will monitor all symptoms. These foods don’t have to be eliminated forever and a plan for reintroduction and monitoring of symptoms will be made based on the patients symptoms and health history. You can read more about this here.
As you can see, there are so many options that I use in my NW Naturopathic Medicine practice to treat Hypertension. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!
Naturopathic Vitality Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic
205-5403 Crowchild Trail NW, Calgary, AB