High Blood Pressure / Cholesterol | Kaleidoscope Wellbeing
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High Blood Pressure / Cholesterol

Why is controlling blood pressure so important?

The most comprehensive analysis of the causes of death ever undertaken concluded that the number one risk factor for death in the world is high blood pressure1. Nine million people die worldwide each year due to high blood pressure1. This is because increased blood pressure has wide-reaching effects in the body – it puts a strain on the heart, it can damage blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys, it can cause bleeding in the brain and it can cause arteries to rupture2. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, therefore contributes to many different deadly health conditions including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysms and kidney failure2.

Almost 6 million adults in Australia have hypertension, which is defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or greater. The prevalence is slightly higher among men. 3

Blood pressure classification

Normal blood pressure: Less than 120 systolic pressure over less than 80 diastolic pressure

Pre-hypertension: 120-39 systolic pressure and/or 80-89 diastolic pressure

Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159 systolic pressure and/or 90-99 diastolic pressure

Stage 2 hypertension: Greater than 159 systolic pressure and/or greater than 99 diastolic pressure 4

Can blood pressure be reduced naturally?

Cultures with low-sodium diets centred around whole, plant-based foods, such as certain African peoples and indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest, do not experience high blood pressure – their blood pressure is normal or low – and stays that way for life. 2

It has been proven, not only through studying these cultures, but also by many scientific studies conducted in western countries, that hypertension can be reduced – and even completely reversed in many cases – by diet and lifestyle alone. Some of these diet and lifestyle changes can reduce blood pressure more than medication can. Yet so many people are on blood-pressure lowering medications. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but eliminating the primary risk factor for death can be as simple as diet and lifestyle changes for the vast majority of people. 2

In terms of nutrients, studies have been conducted into the effect of specific nutrients on blood pressure. Vitamins C & E, fish oil and dietary fibre have been shown to reduce blood pressure, and magnesium deficiency is a recognised risk factor for hypertension. Beetroot juice, due to its nitrate content, is well known to have the ability to reduce blood pressure. 4

Is high cholesterol really bad for us?

This is a very contentious issue, which the medical profession cannot agree on. An extensive scientific review of statin use, benefits and safety concluded that there is a direct and unquestionable relationship between high total and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart attack and stroke. The authors believe that high cholesterol causes atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries by pockets of cholesterol that builds up within the inner linings of the blood vessels, narrowing the vessel and restricting blood flow). They state that individuals with high total cholesterol or LDL-C should lower it, using diet and lifestyle first, and if that doesn’t work, cholesterol-lowering medication such as a statin. 5

However, others disagree. In 2018, a comprehensive scientific review was published, which stated that:

  • High total cholesterol and high LDL are not an indication of atherosclerosis or heart disease risk.
  • “People with low cholesterol become just as atherosclerotic as people with high levels and their risk of suffering from CVD is the same or higher.”
  • A systematic review of 19 studies covering 68,000 people >60 years found those with the highest LDL-C levels outlived both those with untreated low LDL and those on statin treatment. 6

Other, similar reviews have also been published, and it seems the medical profession worldwide is divided on the issue of whether high cholesterol is actually bad for us.

Who’s right? The jury’s out, but it’s a pretty important question given that 2.2 million Australians are taking statins to reduce their cholesterol! Statins are usually taken for the rest of a person’s life, and that’s a long time to be taking a medication which, potentially, you may not need.

There are also numerous side-effects of statins which can occur, some of them serious, which need to be considered alongside the potential health benefits of these drugs. 6

What causes cardiovascular disease?

There is a school of thought that atherosclerosis is caused, not by total or LDL-C levels per se, but by inflammation, the oxidation of cholesterol, and trans fats7. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce inflammation and oxidation in the body, and avoid consuming trans fats, as part of any plan to prevent CVD. These measures will improve overall health too!

It is widely understood, however, that cardiovascular disease is multifactorial, and can involve:

  • diet
  • physical activity levels
  • smoking
  • stress
  • overweight and obesity
  • hypertension
  • dyslipidaemia
  • diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • metabolic syndrome
  • depression
  • genetics
  • homocysteine and C-reactive protein levels 4

Natural treatment for high cholesterol and prevention of CVD

The great news is that many of the risk factors for CVD can be reduced or eliminated with a healthy diet and lifestyle – we can be the architects of our own health! In many situations we don’t need to rely on medications – the answers are within our own control on a day-to-day basis. But it does require us to make permanent changes in how we live.

In terms of cholesterol, even though the jury is still out on whether we need to reduce it or not, you may still wish to try. There are numerous natural options we can try, including:

  • nutrients shown to reduce cholesterol, for example, vitamin C, allicin (the active compound in garlic), curcumin (the active compound in turmeric), and soluble fibre
  • antioxidant nutrients to reduce or prevent oxidative damage to cholesterol, such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10
  • changes to your overall diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation, including a plant-based diet, exercise and stress management techniques.4

How Kaleidoscope Wellbeing can help

Do you want to learn how to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol naturally, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease? You’ll be amazed by how much we can do with diet, lifestyle and nutrients!

Please note that if you are currently on medications to reduce your blood pressure or cholesterol, you must not stop taking these without discussing it with your doctor. If you wish to come off these medications, this must be done under medical supervision. I can work in partnership with your GP to keep them updated on the natural strategies we are using to improve your health. Your GP will want to monitor your blood pressure and/or cholesterol during your treatment, as your medication doses may need to be reduced if you become less reliant on them.

If you are not taking any medications and wish to see if you can improve your health naturally, I can help. We can get started right away! I’ll develop a tailored treatment plan for you with clear, achievable goals and simple, manageable steps to improve your health and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

References

  1. Lozano, R., Naghavi, M., Foreman, K., Lim, S., Shibuya, K., Aboyans, V., … Ahn, S. Y. (2012). Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet, 380(9859), 2095–2128. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(12)61728-0
  2. Greger, M. (2018). How not to die. London, England: Pan Books.
  3. Gabb, G. M., Mangoni, A. A., Anderson, C. S., Cowley, D., Dowden, J. S., Golledge, J., … Arnolda, L. (2016). Guideline for the diagnosis and management of hypertension in adults — 2016. The Medical Journal of Australia, 205(2), 85–89. doi:10.5694/mja16.00526
  4. Hechtman, L. (2019). Clinical naturopathic medicine (2nd ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Australia.
  5. Collins, R., Reith, C., Emberson, J., Armitage, J., Baigent, C., Blackwell, L., … Peto, R. (2016). Interpretation of the evidence for the efficacy and safety of statin therapy. The Lancet, 388(10059), 2532–2561. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(16)31357-5
  6. Ravnskov, U., de Lorgeril, M., Diamond, D. M., Hama, R., Hamazaki, T., Hammarskjöld, B., … Sundberg, R. (2018). LDL-C Does Not Cause Cardiovascular Disease: a comprehensive review of current literature. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. doi:10.1080/17512433.2018.1519391
  7. Kummerow, F. A. (2014). Two lipids in the diet, rather than cholesterol, are responsible for heart failure and stroke. Clinical Lipidology, 9(2), 189–204. doi:10.2217/clp.14.4