One of my fondest childhood memories is of Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ in Brooklyn. As the elevator approached their floor, my sister and I would begin to fight over who got to ring the doorbell. But whoever rang it, we’d both run and hide when my grandmother came to answer the door. And, to us, it never stopped being funny.
Almost before we could get our coats off, my grandmother started feeding us. Everything was homemade and was just perfect. One Sunday, she put a big bowl of her chicken noodle soup in front of me. It had always been my favorite. But this time, I took one sip and announced, “Yuck. This doesn’t taste good.” (My manners are a little better these days.)
“I know, honey,” she said. “I had to make it without any salt. Your grandfather’s blood pressure is very high.” At the time I had no idea what that meant, except that I was going to have to get used to really bad soup.
Unfortunately, according to a report from last Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), there are an estimated 42 million Americans, in addition to my grandfather, who have high blood pressure (or hypertension). That’s a lot of salt-free soup (which may not actually be necessary – more on that in a moment).
The biggest concern raised by the report is that only 10 million are treating it successfully.
Others may not know they have high blood pressure, are choosing not to treat it, or are trying to treat it, but without success. Regardless of the reason, over 30 million people are facing serious health problems. Hypertension can cause strokes, heart attackseven kidney failure.
Blood pressure is considered high when your systolic pressure, the first number in your reading and the pressure on the blood vessels when your heart contracts, is over 140. Anything over 160 is considered serious.
The second number, which is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure on the blood vessels when the heart relaxes, should be below 90. Over that is considered high, and a reading over 100 is thought to be serious.
As usual, the medical establishment’s main line of defense is to recommend a variety of prescription drugs (diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and others). Sure, they’ll lower your blood pressure, but according to the American Heart Association, you may have to put up with a lot of unpleasant side effects while taking them. Diuretics can cause weakness, leg cramping, gout, and interfere with some diabetes medicationsbeta blockers can trigger depression, impotence, insomnia, and exhaustionand ACE inhibitors can lead to kidney damage, a chronic hacking cough, skin rash, and loss of taste. Like with so many prescription treatments, it’s almost hard to tell which is worse – the disease or the “cure.”
Unfortunately, if you have dangerously high blood pressure, you’ll probably need to take one of these immediately to get the fastest results. However, if your blood pressure is high, but not yet in the red zone, there are a number of safe and effective natural solutions, many of which are simple dietary changes.
Cutting back on salt, like my grandfather, is usually the first dietary change most people make – even without their doctor’s recommendation. However, according to leading alternative medicine pioneer Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., “This severe restriction is less a ‘universal recommendation’ than it once was. In fact, some researchers have found that severe sodium restriction actually increases the risk of premature death.” Wright recommends determining your own personal sensitivity to salt on a trial and error basis. According to Wright, more often than not, it does make a difference. But it’s at least worth making sure before you make the long-term sacrifice.
If you find it does make a difference, one tasty alternative is to switch to sea salt. According to some physicians, used in moderation, Celtic Sea Salt has been shown to have no negative effects on blood pressure and actually provides the body with a number of helpful minerals. For more information, call the Grain and Salt Society at (800)867-7258.
I’m sure you’ve heard Larry King and other celebrities extolling the virtues of garlic. Several studies have shown that fresh garlic can lower blood pressure (as well as improve your heart health in a number of other ways). And, other than scaring away vampires or maybe your spouse, there are no real side effects. While more research needs to be done, increasing your garlic consumption is an easy and delicious way to begin to address hypertension.
Fresh onions, like garlic, are also reputed to help thin blood and lower blood pressure. One recent study conducted in Germany demonstrated that a combination of chopped onions and olive oil led to a significant decrease in blood pressurewithin a week.
Once you’re away from the dinner table, you can try another option that we first told members about several years ago called the Freeze Frame program. Created by the HeartMath Research Center, Freeze Frame is a system for managing stress – long known to be a primary cause of hypertension.
This five-step relaxation technique teaches you to remove yourself from disruptive, stressful emotions. In doing so, within minutes you can gain control of your autonomic nervous system, which in turn lets you actually control your heartbeat.
Recent research has confirmed Freeze Frame’s effectiveness. A study of 32 hypertension patients found that after three months of using the Freeze Frame system, the patients were able to achieve twice the reductions in blood pressure as normally seen with low-salt diets and exercise therapy. In fact, the drop in blood pressure was comparable to that found among patients who use drug therapy.
For more information on Freeze Frame, refer to your new member bonus report, “Breakthroughs Against Heart Disease and Stroke.”
If you aren’t sure whether you have high blood pressure, you should see your doctor. Also, many local grocery stores and pharmacies have machines that you can use for free. While these can be helpful for monitoring your pressure as you go, we can’t speak to their reliability. Be sure to work closely with your doctor.
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“Garlic (Allium sativum) and onion (Allium cepa): a review of their relationship to cardiovascular disease,” Prev Med, 1987; 16(5): 670-685
“Effects of an onion-olive oil maceration product containing essential ingredients of the Mediterranean diet on blood pressure and blood fluidity,” Arzneimittelforschung, 2001; 51(2): 104-111Science of the Heart, HeartMatch Research Center, pp.54-56, 2001