Natural approach to hypertension
Hypertension is a common problem facing many Americans today, with two million new cases being diagnosed each year. Although billions of dollars are spent annually in the United States for the treatment and detection of cardiovascular disease, current conventional treatments have done little to reduce the number of patients with hypertension. Alternative medicine offers an effective way to decrease the rising number of people with high blood pressure. Research has found a variety of alternative therapies to be successful in reducing high blood pressure including diet, exercise, stress management, supplements, and herbs.
Hypertension is one of the leading causes of disability or death, due to stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. Expenses related directly or indirectly to the treatment and detection of hypertension in the United States are approximately $10 billion yearly. Heart disease and stroke remain the first and third leading causes of death, respectively, in the United States. Despite the importance of these observations, for many people blood pressure is poorly controlled. (1)
An estimated 50 million American adults (25 percent of all adults) have high blood pressure, but only 68 percent are aware of their condition, and only 27 percent have it under control. (2) Each year, two million new cases of hypertension are diagnosed. (3) The risk of hypertension increases with age in both men and women. (4) Before age 55, more men than women have hypertension; the reverse is true for those over the age of 55. African Americans have significantly more risk of developing high blood pressure then Caucasians and Mexican Americans.
There are two types of high blood pressure: essential (primary) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension does not have a readily identifiable cause, and is the most common type of hypertension, accounting for 90 percent of all cases of high blood pressure. Genetics play a major role in essential hypertension. In the case of secondary hypertension, the cause can be identified and is usually treatable or reversible.
Optimal blood pressure (BP) is 120/ 80 mm Hg or less. (5) The systolic pressure measures the force that blood exerts on the artery walls as the heart contracts to pump blood, while the diastolic pressure measures the force when the heart relaxes to allow blood flow into the heart.
Table 1 outlines the conventional guidelines for drug therapy. (6) Beta-blockers, diuretics, or both are usually the first line of treatment for most physicians. (7)
Dietary Approaches to Hypertension
A diet low in saturated fat and high in complex carbohydrate is recommended. Such a diet includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, soy products, onions, garlic, foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium (carrots, spinach, celery, alfalfa, mushrooms, lima beans, potatoes, avocados, broccoli, and most fruits), and restricts salt.
Subjects (n=133) were enrolled in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial in order to determine the effect of diet on blood pressure. Systolic blood pressures of participants ranged from 140-159 mm Hg, while diastolic BPs were 90-95 mm Hg. Subjects...