High blood pressure has become a rampant health issue nowadays. In the United States alone, 70 million adults were found to have this condition, in other words, one in every three adults. Only half of that percentage have their case under control. About a third of American adults have prehypertension, which is blood pressure that is in a higher range, but not yet HBP. This ailment costs the USA $46 billion a year, including the cost of health care services, medications, treatment, and missed work days.
This disease caused about 1,000 deaths a day in 2013. (2)
What is High Blood Pressure?
HBP is the name for the elevated pressure of blood in the arteries. This can occur from two major factors, either independently or together.
- The heart pumps blood with excess force
- The body’s smaller blood vessels called the arterioles to become narrow. This causes the blood flow to exert more pressure against the vessel wall.
Blood pressure is measured by the amount of force the heart pumps blood throughout the body. The pressure can be determined by the amount of force used, the volume of pumped blood, and the flexibility and size of the arteries.
The human body is durable and can tolerate high blood pressure but only for months or a few years. Eventually, the heart can enlarge which is a major contributor to heart failure. This pressure can also injure the blood vessels in the kidneys, heart, brain, and eyes.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
The most common type of HBP is called Primary Hypertension. This is when doctors cannot identify a particular cause. Researchers have found certain genetic factors that play a role in this condition, such as genes that influence blood pressure control and genes the cause abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system.
Secondary Hypertension is usually created by an underlying medical condition or other factors such as medication. These cases make blood pressure difficult to control. This includes:
- Diabetes type 1 and 2
- Kidney disease
- Birth defect in the aorta, (the main artery of the heart)
- Endocrine disorders
- Medications that raise or worsen existing HBP, such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (generic, Advil, Motrin), naproxen (generic, Aleve), and Aspirin
- Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- Age and gender – Men over 45 and women over 55 have an increased risk for HBP. Hypertension is also becoming widespread for teens and kids, affecting more boys than girls.
- Family history
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Lifestyles factors which include:
- Consuming excess sodium and too little potassium
- Chronic alcohol use
- Physical inactivity
- Chronic stress, especially when it leads to previous factors.
The Harm in Pharmaceutical Treatment
There are many options for drug treatment for high blood pressure, including diuretics, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers (CCBs). However, these medications can make the patient feel worse than the disease itself which normally has no symptoms.
Treatment: Diuretics help the kidneys expel the excess water and salt in the body. They are usually the first recommended medicine when blood pressure issues arise.
Medication brands: There are three types of diuretics including:
- Thiazide diuretics – hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone, Clorpres), methyclothiazide (Enduran), indapamide (Lozol), bendroflumethiazide (Naturetin), and metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
- Potassium-sparing diuretics – spironolactone (Aldactone, generic), amiloride (Midamor, generic), and triamterene (Dyrenium, generic)
- Loop diuretics – bumetanide (Bumex, generic), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin, generic), furosemide (Lasix, generic), and torsemide (Demadex, generic)
- Loop and thiazide diuretics diminish the body’s supply of potassium, which increases the risk of heart rhythm disturbances. In some cases, this led to cardiac arrest.
- Thiazide diuretics can increase blood sugar levels, erectile dysfunction, elevated uric acid levels, and possibly gout.
- Depression and irritability
- Urinary incontinence
- Reduced sexual drive
Treatment: Beta blockers help by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Medication brands: Propranolol (Inderal), acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor), betaxolol (Kerlone), carteolol (Cartrol), nadolol (Corgard), timolol (Blocadren), penbutolol (Levatol), pindolol (Visken), carvedilol (Coreg), and nebivolol (Bystolic).
- Sudden withdrawals can increase heart rate and blood pressure which can cause angina or a heart attack.
- Non-selective beta blockers may narrow bronchial airways, deeming this medication unfit for those with asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis.
- When combined with a diuretic, risk of diabetes increases.
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Vivid dreams and nightmares
- Memory loss
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Reduced exercising abilities
- Coldness in extremities (legs, arms, toes, and hands)
- Reduced sexual drive
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)
Treatment: ACE inhibitors widen the blood vessels and decrease the overall workload of the heart, thereby treating high blood pressure.
Medication brands: captopril (Capoten, generic), quinapril (Accupril, generic), enalapril (Vasotec, generic), perindopril (Aceon, generic), benazepril (Lotensin, generic), ramipril (Altace, generic), and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril, generic).
- Low blood pressure
- Irritating cough
- Unfit for pregnancy
Less Common Side Effects
- Increase potassium retention in the kidneys. Elevated levels of potassium can cause cardiac arrest. This symptom was found in patients with kidney disease.
- Granulocytopenia, an extreme reduction of white blood cells, making the patient more prone to infection
- Severe allergic reaction with swelling of the eyes, mouth, and may close off the throat.
Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs)
Treatment: ARBs widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
Medication brands: Losartan (Cozaar, Hyzaar, generic), candesartan (Atacand), telmisartan (Micardis), olmesartan (Benicar), valsartan (Diovan), eprosartan (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro), and azilsartan (Edarbi).
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Raised potassium levels
- Nasal congestion
- Unfit for pregnancy
Calcium-channel blockers (CCBs)
Treatment: CCBs helps relax the blood vessels.
Medication brands: Diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), isradipine (DynaCirc), nicardipine (Cardene), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), nisoldipine (Sular), and nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia).
- Swelling in the feet
- Erectile dysfunction
- Food interactions (mostly with grapefruit or Seville orange products) (3)
Herbs: The Natural Alternative to Treat High Blood Pressure
Hawthorn has been a heart disease remedy since the first century. It is a common thorny shrub that grows up to 5 feet tall and grows in small, red, white, and pink clusters. Little berries called haws sprout after the flowers. Hawthorn contains antioxidant flavonoids which help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect the vessels from damage. The leaves and buds were found to have more flavonoids than the berries. One study has found that participants who took hawthorn extract for 16 weeks had lower blood pressure than the placebo. (4)
Linden is a herb from lime trees. These flowers were brewed into tea throughout history to heal issues pertaining to anxiety. The Linden flowers contain flavonoids, volatile oil, and mucilage component, which soothe and reduce inflammation. It also has tannins which act as an astringent. It also has antispasmodic, diuretic, and sedative properties. (5)
Yarrow was a popular European folk medicine. It contains flavonoids, plant-based chemicals that increase stomach acid and saliva to improve digestion. It can also relax smooth muscles in the intestine and uterus. Yarrow is a member of the Astor family which is related to chrysanthemums and chamomile. The flowers, leaves, and stems are used in medicine. It has been found to lower blood pressure and can strengthen the effects of pharmaceutical drugs for this condition. (6)
Mistletoe has been found to neutralize blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes, in addition to treating cardiovascular disease. It also can soothe arthritic and rheumatic pain. The actual berries of this plant are poisonous. The leaves, however, are rich with healing effects. (7)
A study was done on male participants aged 30 to 65 years old where they consumed 250 ml of a hibiscus tea after a high-fat breakfast. The placebo group drank only water. Researchers have noted the improved difference in the blood pressure and inflammation in comparison to the placebo volunteers without the tea. They hoped that this study can become the start of using this herb to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases. (8)
Tea For Heart Health
These herbs are effective in aiding healthy blood pressure in varying ways. Some dilate the peripheral blood vessels, thereby increasing the overall size of the cardiovascular structure. Some help the kidneys pass more water, thus reducing the fluid content in the system. Others normalize the activity of the heart, safely decreasing the force with which the blood is pumped through the body.
Here is how you can make brew your own Hawthorn, lime, mistletoe, and yarrow tea.
Depending on how much you want to make at one time, adjust the formula accordingly.
- Hawthorn – 2 parts
- Lime Blossom – 2 parts
- Yarrow – 2 parts
- Mistletoe- 1 part
Drink this tea three times daily for optimal results.
Using this mixture over a period of time, blood pressure will return to normal level. This drink will safely return blood pressure to a normal level without artificial depressing the system. Herbs can only normalize and will not lower blood pressure to unhealthy levels. (1)