Happy Valentine's Day
  

Recently a childhood friend of mine died due to the effects of uncontrolled blood pressure.  As a doctor I know how important it is to keep blood pressure controlled.  Lifestyle is one key. Heredity is also part of the equation.  No matter what you inherited, your blood pressure is a heart disease that is controllable.
 
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Water is very important; at least 2 liters a day.  While caffeine is not recommended, green tea has shown to be a benefit. Alcohol can be a problem, but a glass of red wine shows benefit in some people. Use purified water. 
It can be worth checking for heavy metal toxicity as an underlying cause of hypertension.

 
 
Stress is unavoidable, but how we respond can be modified.  Fifteen minutes daily of stress management practice has been proven effective.  Yoga, meditation, biofeedback and guided imagery are possible methods. Practice daily is needed over time to achieve results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
February is heart health month. 

stuffy nose There are many places with machines to check your blood pressure.  Most drug stores and even some grocery stores have automated machines.  Our patients can always have blood pressure checks free of charge at our office. Generally there are no symptoms and that is why hypertension (high blood pressure) is known as the silent killer.
 
It is best if the readings are below 120 over 70. The upper number at less than 120 means your blood vessels are flexible and not narrowed. When the pressure in the arteries is more than 120 it is called pre hypertension. The lower number is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.  When we age the arteries can become narrowed from cholesterol and plaque build up or they become stiff so it takes more heart pressure to move the blood. Tension from stress can also cause the heart to have to work harder.
 
Blood pressure readings higher than 140 over 90 is stage 1 hypertension and must be treated. Readings higher than 160 over 100 will cause more damage and must be reduced quickly. When the readings are above 180/110 it is urgent to reduce the heart load and tension on the arteries. The blood pressure will be elevated under stress.  A hectic drive or even the doctor can make the readings higher.  When tension causes the pressure to be more than 140 over 90 it should be monitored with help from the doctor.
When a patient has hypertension the doctor first rules out other causes such as kidney trouble.  When there is no other part of the body causing the problem it is called essential hypertension.

The first approach is to make lifestyle changes.
Exercise is essential.  Herbal treatments only work if the patient exercises every day at least 30 minutes. Even drug therapy will work better with exercise.  A plan to do aerobic exercise at least 4 days a week is important to maintain health. Commit to a plan.

Diet is known to be very important. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is proven to help. There are books and Internet resources for the basics on this diet. The diet is high in fruit and vegetables and low in fat. Review the previous newsletter on heart health from February 2007 on our website.

Eating vegetarian helps.  Perhaps start with a "Meatless Monday" (using beans, soy and vegetable dishes) and "Fish Fridays".  Eliminate the worst offenders such as hamburger and other fatty meats.  If you are not completely vegetarian at least reduce meat to 3 ounces daily and increase the vegetables to fill up.  Vegetables are high in minerals and help reduce blood pressure. They fill you up with lower calorie content and are low fat. 
 
There is a hereditary factor that makes some people salt sensitive.  The genetic tests are available through our office.  A trial of one month without salt is another way to check this.  It means reading labels and avoiding foods that come with salt, not just avoiding the saltshaker.  All of us benefit by reducing our consumption of salt.  The first step is to eat fresh food that has not been processed and packaged.  For example raw nuts, carrots and apples are better than crackers, chips and packaged treats.

Weight loss is important unless you are already too thin.  Weight loss automatically will lower blood pressure. For every kilo (2.2 pounds) the pressure will drop 1.6/1.1 points. In some people a 10-pound weight loss can mean a drug is not necessary.
 

 
foodIf your blood pressure is edging upward there are many herbs that can be added to a healthier lifestyle.

Use garlic, ginger, celery and onions liberally in your food. One clove of garlic daily can lower the pressure by 8 points. Capsules with combinations of herbs are available at the center. 
 
Some herbs directly lower the pressure by effects on the blood volume or making the blood vessels relax and others help people relax more when they have stressful situations. Melatonin has been found to lower nighttime blood pressure.  This is a hormone that helps us fall asleep, so it is taken at bedtime. 
 
Melatonin has been found to have many side effects including reduced risk of cancer and less irritable bowel. Nature often provides us with helpful therapies that include beneficial side effects.

All people should use the lifestyle methods to prevent illness and hypertension.  If your blood pressure has been creeping upward the herbs can bring it back down.  Herbs can also be used with blood pressure drugs to lower the amount of medication necessary to control the blood pressure.  By lowering the amount of drug needed the patient can reduce side effects.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. Dana Keaton
Center For Natural Medicine
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Center For Natural Medicine | 906 West McDowell Rd. | Phoenix | AZ | 85007