In most cases, natural solutions for high blood pressure are chosen in a similar way that conventional high blood pressure medications. Outside of diet changes and stress management, natural solutions for high blood pressure are chosen in a somewhat arbitrary fashion, with some exceptions. The selection process is not done based on what has gone wrong to elevate your blood pressure, but rather what research shows for certain health circumstances. For example patients with Diabetes are always put on an ACE inhibitor because this has been shown to protect their kidneys. Patients that have had a heart attack are often put on a beta blocker because it has been shown to improve long term survival rates. Little about this selection process is based on what created the high blood pressure to being with.
In the cases mentioned above there is a more clear selection process but most of the time it is more arbitrary. Diet and exercise will always be the cornerstone of treatment, but understanding how your genetics create and effect your unique biochemistry hold the answer to more precise treatment. It is the biochemical reactions inside the body that cause the elevated blood pressure. Using medications and nutrition we can alter this biochemistry and thus the high blood pressure. Lets look at some examples of genetic changes related to high blood pressure.
Stress, Anxiety, and White Coat Syndrome Hypertension
When we get stressed or anxious about real or imagined things in our life there is a surge of chemicals that flood through our system called catecholamines. You may know these chemicals by the name adrenaline and those with similar chemical structure. What these chemicals do to our cardiovascular system is increase heart rate and constrict the vessels. This causes and increase in blood pressure and that is why stress is a known cause for high blood pressure. However, just because stress may be the cause does make the high blood pressure any less significant. The net result is still high blood pressure that is increasing your risk for cardiovascular damage. Reducing the stress or better yet reducing the amount of catecholamines in the body would in effect reduce your blood pressure and your level of stress.
Researchers in Japan examined the genetics of 735 Japanese men and looked for correlations in their blood pressures and one specific gene called COMT. This gene is one that breaks down catecholamines like epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine. Some people have a genetic variation where they don't break down these and other catecholamines very efficiently. This variation is called COMT Met/Met polymorphism. It would make sense then that those with this genetic variation would have higher blood pressures. The Japanese researchers found just that.
Among the the 735 men studied, those with COMT Met/Met had higher blood pressures when compared to those with the "normal" gene. This does not mean all hypertension is associated with this gene but if you are someone that also suffers from over stress, anxiety disorder, and white coat syndrome, it may be worth looking in to this. Identify this gene will help your doctor find blood pressure medications that are more likely to help. It can also help naturopathic doctors identify naturopathic treatments to help your hypertension.
Response to ACE Inhibitors
ACE Inhibitors are a class of blood pressure medications used to reduce the amount of an enzyme called Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE). When in excess this enzyme effectively increases pressure in arteries close to the kidneys and also increases fluid retention. The updated Framingham Study recently revealed that a genetic change in the our ability to make ACE can significantly alter blood pressure (The largest body of research on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease called Framingham Study initially identified the need to control blood pressure). This genetic change is thought to only effect men occurring at a rate of about 17%. A study published in Circulation confirmed this finding in Japanese men showing that those with the ACE DD genetic change have higher risk of hypertension as a result of having higher circulating ACE in their body.
Those men with this genetic variation would obviously respond more favorably to ACE inhibitor medications and nutritional support with similar activity.
Mood Alterations and Cold Hands and Feet
The ability of our bodies to create and breakdown neurotransmitters is governed by a process called methylation. This process also plays a critical role in the ability of the arteries to effectively dilate during periods of higher oxygen demand. There are several genetic alterations that can disrupt the methylation pathway but the most notable is a genetic alteration in the MTHFR gene. You can get answers to common MTHFR questions here.
Because methylation is important for dilating arteries researchers were curious about the effect of blood pressure on patients with an MTHFR defect. In this study researchers looked to see the impact of correcting an MTHFR defect on patients with ongoing hypertension. The results published in Hypertension were quite remarkable. The authors noted,
"treatment targeted at correcting MTHFR can decrease BP more effectively than treatment with an current anti-hypertensive drugs."
As suggested from the information above and the many other available research articles, there are more targeted approaches to normalizing blood pressure. By evaluating your unique biochemistry and genetics we can better target your high blood pressure with natural solutions and medications, if needed. If you want to find a more natural and personalized treatment for your high blood pressure, click on the link below for a free consult.