Elevated blood pressure predisposes individuals to cardiovascular disease and
increased risk of cardiac events, including stroke and myocardial infarction (heart attack). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 2021, the prevalence of hypertension increases with age, with a rate of 22.4% among adults aged 18 to 39, a rate of 54.5% among those aged 40 to 59, and a rate of 74.5% among those aged 60 and older.
Primary or essential hypertension has no direct identifiable etiology, although genetics, suboptimal dietary intake, and other factors, such as sedentary lifestyle and obesity, are believed to be involved. In contrast, secondary hypertension is caused by other disease processes, including renal or endocrine pathophysiology.
Patients may unknowingly begin to trend toward hypertension without any overt
symptoms before diagnosis. This highlights the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring. When present, symptoms may signify more severe hypertension, and include headache, fatigue, vision problems, chest pain, and arrhythmia.
Nutrition and lifestyle intervention serve as important facets of care in preventing and ameliorating hypertension. You can lower blood pressure through the maintenance of healthy weight, increased physical activity, stress management techniques, and adoption of a heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet.
Additionally, nutrients that support vasodilation, healthy endothelial function, and blood pressure regulation can be emphasized through diet or supplementation.
Action Steps to Support Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
- Regular physical activity to support healthy cardiovascular function and a healthy body mass index (BMI).
- Stress management practices, such as breath work, meditation, and yoga to
modulate sympathetic response and tone.
Therapeutic Diet and Nutritional Considerations
- Consumption of a heart healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or dietary
approaches to stop hypertension, also known as the DASH diet.
- Support blood pressure levels through intake of magnesium- and potassium-rich foods:
o Swiss chard
o Pumpkin seeds
o Beet greens
o Black beans and lima beans
o Tuna and salmon
o Dark chocolate
Supplement support based on practitioner guidance:
- Hibiscus tea
- Hawthorne extract
- CoQ10 with lipoic acid
- Magnesium Taurate
Functional medicine aims to focus on the cause of a medical condition rather than the symptoms. Conventional medical approaches can be quick to use drugs to control the associated symptoms rather than solving the underlying issue which can cause further issues in the long-run.
For example, high blood pressure is sometimes a result of poor eating habits or lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking. A functional medicine approach looks for the underlying cause and will include a range of different tests to determine what is going on.
The practitioner will consider the full medical and lifestyle history of the individual and use a patient-centered approach. There can be a wide range of triggers for high blood pressure including environmental and genetic causes.
The cause of high blood pressure is often different for each individual and, where conventional medicine provides a one size fits all solution, the functional medicine approach looks for the unique factors that are causing the condition.
If someone is suffering from inflammation, for example, their high blood pressure may be a result of that particular health problem. Treating the inflammation and reducing it can in turn result in an improvement in terms of the patient’s blood pressure.
Lifestyle interventions make a huge difference to many chronic conditions we suffer from in the modern world, including high blood pressure. For one individual that could mean adding more foods high in potassium. For another, it might be reducing weight and living a less sedentary lifestyle.
While we recommend the action steps stated above to support a healthy blood pressure, we can not emphasize enough how important it is to talk with a functional medicine provider to create a personalized pathway to restore healthy blood pressure!