Primary hypertension is the medical term for abnormally high blood pressure for no apparent reason, or due to dietary and lifestyle choices, or an inherited pre-disposition. Secondary hypertension refers to high blood pressure resulting from an existing condition such as kidney or endocrine disease. Over 90% of people with high blood pressure will be diagnosed as having primary hypertension.
What does a blood pressure test measure?
A blood pressure reading measures the pressure your heart exerts to circulate blood around your body. An increase in pressure would pump more blood through the arteries, however if there was a build-up of plaque (known as atherosclerosis), or if there was any kind of obstruction (such as a bloodclot), then even more pressure would be needed to pump the same amount of blood.
On average, your heart beats 60 to 70 times per minute. With each beat it pumps blood through the arteries. Blood pressure is highest when the heart contracts to pump the blood; this is measured as systolic pressure. When the heart muscles relax, blood pressure falls, this is measured as diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure is represented by the top number, a measurement of the pressure of the heart contracting, and diastolic pressure is the bottom number, a measurement of the pressure of the heart relaxing.
You can expect blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day depending on your level of activity. Hypertension is diagnosed only after a blood pressure reading that is equal to or greater than 140:90* on three separate days, tests need to be administered by the same person, in the same environment and at the same time of the day.
Hypertension treatment is usually based on drug administration, yet lifestyle changes and especially diet have also been proven to be almost as effective in hypertension therapy.1
Risk factors for hypertension:
- Over 65 years of age – (BP increases with age)
- Heavy smoker
- Heavy drinker
- Abuse of stimulants
- Over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and trans fats
- Lack of exercise
- History of heart conditions in the family
- High stress lifestyle
Symptoms of hypertension
There are many reasons why blood pressure may go up, including mental or emotional stress, physical tension or recurring oedema. Some may experience dizziness, headache, blurry vision, nausea or vomitting. However, most people will have no symptoms.
If you have a family history of hypertension or heart problems it would be wise to have it checked on a regular basis, depending on your age. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart damage, stroke or kidney failure.
Hypertension is very treatable, especially when addressed early on. Namely diet and lifestyle changes are the longterm prescription.
A whole foods diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains, legumes, moderate amounts of meat and fish, nuts and seeds, along with heart healthy oils and no more than one level teaspoon of unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt per day, will bring about desired changes. If you have been using table salt keep it in your garden shed as it has zero nutrients and is on par with white sugar. Quality salt will contain anywhere from 50 to 83 minerals and trace minerals that are needed for electrolyte balance in the body.
Lifestyle changes for hypertension
Start with breathing exercises, they will lower your blood pressure. First learn how to do diaphragmatic breathing then move on to hara breathing. If possible make your exercise routine enjoyable. Depending on your level of fitness, aim to walk for at least 30 minutes every day.
If weight is an issue don’t count calories. Focus on nutrient values. You are less likely to have cravings if you are meeting your nutritional needs. In time, your clothes will feel more comfortable. Strict diets don’t work but changing our habits will have long term benefits.
If you have been burning the candle at both ends then it is time to take steps to restore balance. Having a ritual herbal infusion to wind down before bedtime can help to improve quality of sleep. Cutting back on alcohol, smoking, late nights or whatever you need to curtail can be reframed as a self-affirming action rather than a deprivation to be endured.
Healthy Herbal Habits
Hibicus tea is rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, two phyto-nutrients shown to help lower blood pressure. In five randomized control trials hibiscus tea has been shown to significantly reduce glycemic status and blood pressure among adult population.2 Other popular herbal infusions include Linden flower, Motherwort and Yarrow.
Cayenne pepper is known to balance blood pressure, but know that more is not always better. You need to be taking organic, medicinal quality cayenne pepper to get the best results – and never, ever cook with it.
There are many culinary herbs, especially aromatic ones, that can help to lower blood pressure, such as basil, cinnamon, cardamon seeds and of course garlic.
Herbal Medicine for hypertension
You will always hear this herb is good for that and that one is for this – but really herbal medicine begins with the person, not the condition or disease label. The root cause is always important to uncover for effective treatment. However a multi-system approach is almost always taken: circulatory herbs, along with hypotensive tonic heart herbs, kidney and liver support, sometimes lung support, relaxing herbs for the nervous system and nutritive herbs to assist with recovery. The choice of herbs will reflect the person being treated and their current situation.
DISCLAIMER: The above is not to be taken as medical advice. The content on this website is for general information purposes only.
1. Moschonis G, Karatzi K. Novel Dietary Approaches for Controlling High Blood Pressure. Nutrients. 2020 Dec 21;12(12):3902. doi: 10.3390/nu12123902. PMID: 33371183; PMCID: PMC7766318.
2. Najafpour Boushehri, Saeid, et al. “The Efficacy of Sour Tea (Hibiscus Sabdariffa L.) On Selected Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.” Phytotherapy Research : PTR, vol. 34, no. 2, 2020, pp. 329-339.